YM duo taken for spin in Weymouth Bay


Up, up, up came the weather side, over, over, over went the rig and up, over and in came a white explosion of salt water. Dorset passed in a blur and I braced my salt-stained deck shoes against the bar taut back-stay fall which hummed with tension. I pulled the carbon fibre tiller towards me trying to get this Open 60 wind machine away from a broach and into ‘the groove.’

‘You had seventeen point three, just then,’ came the cool voice of her skipper, Steve White, 36. I have never sailed at 17.3 knots before, but hope to do so again one day!
I was like Toad of Toad Hall: how could I ever be wowed by 7.5 knots anymore?

The poor old Contessa 32 is consigned to history: I now wanted one of these. ‘Just think: this hull 36ft long, with a centre-board…’ I mused to YM’s editor Paul Gelder who had joined me aboard Steve’s Toe In The Water Vendee Globe sloop for a jolly around Weymouth Bay.

Steve had very kindly fitted us in for a spin and his wife Kim had joined us, too and she was first to spot the bucking and rearing boat under our lee. A figure motioned to the VHF and Steve went below. ‘They want us half a mile to the south of the firing range,’ he said so we’ll gybe over in a minute.’

But Toe In The Water was going so fast, with one reef in the main and the giant genneker that before we needed to make the course change, the range boat radioed again and said we were out of the prohibited area.

My moment of glory over I was now consigned to the grinder: I felt like one of those windmilling weather cocks where the prop turns the man as I furled the genneker – or a small part of it, gasping for breath.In fact just bending over to get through the mouse-hole-shaped companionway to get inside Toe In The Water requires less of a beer gut than the one I sport.

But I still want one. After all I’m not going round the world.