Strong headwinds decimated the fleet in this year's Yachting Monthly Biscay Triangle Rally


Yachting Monthly’s 2007 Biscay Triangle Rally fleet was severely reduced by strong and continuous headwinds before it reached it’s first stop over in La Coruna. Indeed, most of the fleet failed to make it past Ushant. The photograph above shows he misleading calm conditions of the start. Within hours the fleet was beating into strong south-westerlies.
I was on board the sturdy Hallberg-Rassy 352, Eyecatcher, whose owner and skipper, Roger Beverley made the very seamanlike decision to join seven others of the fleet in Falmouth after 24 hours of beating into Force 6 and 7 winds.
Our choices were limited by a severely seasick crewmember but for others as well as us, the forecast of at least 48 more hours of similar or stronger winds was too much. Most of the rest of the 16-strong original fleet sought shelter in Dartmouth, Plymouth and starting port, Torquay. Five boats made it across the Channel, four of whom then sought shelter in Camaret. It is anticipated that about half the fleet will eventually make it to La Coruna in time for the restart to the second destination, La Trinité.
It was a great personal disappointment for me not to complete the passage to La Coruna as it was probably my only chance this year to make a longer offshore passage. But I have to say no one was more pleased than I to be safely tucked up in harbour.
The situation highlighted for me the importance of prudence in good seamanship. On the face of it conditions were not particularly severe at any one time – the winds never reached more than 30 knots true and were often less than 20. But 72 or more hours with 26 to 35 knots of wind over the deck is enough to sap the strength of any normal cruising crew. To plug on in those circumstances, when there is shelter just five hours away, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.