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The Fastnet Challenge for the Meningitis Research Foundation

Meningitis Research Foundation Charity Challenge

Flair IV competed in the 2003 RORC Rolex Fastnet Race Race, chartered by a crew sailing on behalf of the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF). Through sponsorship and fundraising events, the team are delighted to report that over 50,000 has been raised for the charity.

Fastnet route One of the most presigious amateur long distance yacht races, the Fastnet starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, Isle of Wight. The 600+ mile route takes the fleet westward out of the Solent and along the coastline of South West England. Then the fleet turn to cross the notorious Irish Sea to the Fastnet Rock off the south-west tip of Ireland. After rounding the rock, it's back across the Irish Sea before finishing in Plymouth.

Over the winter of 2002, plans were hatched by Andrew Adams, Steve Highwood and Flair's owner Jim Macgregor, to put together a team to raise money for the charity. Regular Flair crew member Julian Peach headed up the training of the eight newcomers to the boat, all of whom have links to the construction industry, and unfortunately have suffered some experience of Meningitis. Several training days were held in the Solent, and all of the crew attended a sea survival course before competing in three of the RORC qualifier races.

Julian Peach, James King, Andrew Adams, David Darby, Steve Highwood, David Richmond

MRF Fastnet Crew

Colin Cauldehead, Claire Sheddick, Jim Macgregor, David Enticknapp

The first qualifier for the team was the Cervantes Trophy, from Cowes to LeHavre on 3rd May. A good crossing was made with the whole fleet in sight during the whole passage. With a mostly SW wind, Force 3 to 4, spinnakers were flown out of the Solent before the Heavy No.1 then Light No.1 genoas were carried across the Channel, with just enough breeze for us to finish. Starting at 0800, the crossing took roughly 16.5 hours, fishing at about 0030, with a very pleasing 2nd place in IRC2.

Jim, Julian, and the rest of the team attended the official launch of the MRF Fastnet Challenge, held in May at the Halcyon Art Gallery in Mayfair, London. The paparazzi were out in force, but it transpired that they were there for next door where Stella Mcartney was opening her new shop! Both events were well attended, with pictures taken by Hello magazine and included in their next issue -- fame at last?!

Racing in the Myth of MalhamThe second qualifier was the Myth of Malham on 31st May, this time with Jim joining the crew. Starting off Cowes, this channel race took IRC2 around the Nab Tower and on to the Needles Fairway around the South of the Island. From there it was back along the South of the Island to a buoy off Brighton, before returning to the finish off Gilkicker Point. Light winds prevailed for the whole race, with a particularly frustrating few hours spent parked off Brighton in the middle of the night going nowhere. A tired crew took line honours and finished 2nd in IRC 2, hoping that the Fastnet wouldn't be plagued by similarly light winds!

Our last qualifier was the Cowes-Dinard-St.Malo on 4th July which started at 1500. Being the final shake down with the new crew, it was decided to cross the finish line off St Malo then head straight back to Poole non-stop. A good start saw Flair as 2nd boat out of the Solent, but as the evening approached the wind died once again -- progress was still slow rounding the western side of the Channel Islands. The finish line was eventually crossed at about 2100, and after dropping the mainsail the crew had to motor all the way home apart from two hours off the Dorset Coast. The team finished a disappointing 44th, after yet another long and frustrating race.

A long way to go...The Fastnet started on Sunday 10th August off The Royal Yacht Squadron Line at Cowes. The day the team had been training for had finally arrived. After the goodbyes had been said to loved ones on the dock, Flair made a good start at 1020 on a lovely summers day. A spinnaker run took the fleet down the Solent, with Flair peeling to an asymmetric then to Light No.1 as the wind headed on the way to Needles Fairway. The team were easily leading their class until they suffered the first of many tide-gate calms, forcing anchorage close under St Aldhelms Head later that afternoon.

The wind eventually filled in -- passing Portland at 2240 that evening, and with a good breeze Start Point was rounded on Monday morning at 0430, still in the lead. It was at this point that the breeze was lost offshore, leaving the team to watch with dismay as many of their fellow competitors coming from behind kept in the breeze under the cliffs and passed them. After finally starting to move again, many sail changes were required to keep pace with the ever changing light and variable conditions. The spirit on board Flair was excellent -- eating well always helps! Passing The Lizard at 1506 that afternoon, Lands End was rounded in the early evening with a force 5-6 on the nose. Unfortunately, that night during a reef, the mainsail ripped and had to be taken below for repair. After still managing 7 knots under the Heavy No.1 genoa alone, the main was back up some 2 hours later thanks to a good repair job by Steve Highwood -- Fastnet back on! Most of the night was spent on the weather rail, keeping the weight up, with a good routine going that meant no one would spend more than one hour at the front.

The Fastnet RockThe Fastnet Rock approached during the early hours of Wednesday morning, and after a quick chat with the timekeepers was rounded at 0746. In good company from fellow competitors, it was clear that some of the lower rated boats were rather closer than it would have been liked! As the rock was left astern, the wind died completely again and another frustrating few hours were spent going nowhere. The wind eventually started filling in, the spinnaker was hoisted, and once again Flair was going well. As night approached the wind increased, with the team changing to Heavy No.1 then to No.3 as they approached Bishop Light House on Thursday morning. In the breeze, Flair was loving it and so were her crew, still in good spirits and sailing hard.

Approaching the Lizard the team encountered yet another calm, and once again the yachts behind caught up, pretty much restarting the race forty miles from the finish. After rounding the Lizard at 2110, another fickle night gave the team a good race to the finish with other yachts in their class and in IRC1.

Crossing the finish the line in Plymouth Sound at 0645 on Friday morning, the crew were over the moon in the knowledge that they had raised over 50,000 for The Meningitis Research Foundation, and completed The Fastnet! After tidying up Flair it was then ashore to begin the celebrations -- a beer and breakfast, before a well earned rest.

Sam and JulianCelebrations were not only due to the team for completing the race and raising a significant sum for the MRF, but also to the future Mr and Mrs Peach. After arriving back in Plymouth on Friday morning, Julian proposed to Sam on the foredeck, and to the delight of the onlookers in the cockpit she said "yes"!

A great time was had by all, and thanks are due to everyone involved for their part in raising an amazing sum for the Meningitis Research Foundation