Sea areas Finisterre and Biscay are some of the toughest areas in the world to sail in. Not only is the weather here frequently rough, but it’s always full of ships, some of which have poor watchkeepers and poor judges of a sailing boat’s speed. Here are some excerpts from Steve White’s recent report to give you an idea:
…with 30 knot winds off Finisterre the seas were as big and awkward as he could remember, only the second time he could recall not being able to stand up on the foredeck of his Open 60, and having to work on his hands and knees.
“I came as close as I ever have in my entire life to getting run down. It was the closest I have ever been to a ship which was not at anchor I think. An under arm throw with a tennis ball and I could have put it on its deck. I called him up and he obviously had not seen me and it took him five minutes to respond, and then when he did respond I said ‘what are you going to do?’ and he came back and said he was going to ‘turn to starboard and come down your starboard side’.
“I thought that was rather odd, ‘cos if he had turned to port he would have gone under our stern which would have been a much better thing to have done. He did an alteration to starboard which was big but it was not big enough, and I got headed and it finished up with us bow to bow and an angle of about 90 degrees and I baled out.
“I dumped the traveller all the way down because there was about 30 knots of breeze [so]… the boat would not bear away, and as I crouched down to see I could see he had turned as well. I had no idea that a ship that size, 160 metres, could turn so quickly and the bow was blown around and I saw his nav lights change underneath the boom, then I pushed the buttons on the pilot to come back up again, we both turned into each other effectively. Anyway I missed him.
“He came under my stern and I called him up and said: ‘that was rather close wasn’t’ it?’ and he went absolutely berserk, and I thought which bit of the rules of the road have I not understood whereby you are supposed to get out of the way and I call you and ask what you are going to do, you tell me and you still end up hitting me.”
That would have been a horrible way to finish up, after all Steve has done in this race.