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Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

A Fastnet Diary Part 7 - First Races

Crew at seaFollowing Quantum Sailing’s Fastnet Race 2013 campaign – this diary is our ‘soup to nuts’ account of what’s involved in preparing for, and participating in, one of the world’s most challenging offshore races. We hope that this will be useful to others considering doing something similar in the future.

At last we are ready to report on some racing! We’d picked a series of four preparatory races and have now completed two. With 300 miles required as the minimum qualification, completing any three should give us sufficient miles. Some just enter the three races needed or, by including one of the longer races, such as the Myth of Malham Race around the Eddystone rock, just two.


We felt that by competing in more races we would benefit from the experience and be able to learn lessons and try different things as we went along. The schedule also suited us, with one race in May and then races every two weeks in June / July. We felt that this would really get us into the swing of things, finishing with our longest qualifier, a race to St Malo. We’d then have a short time to recover and prepare ourselves mentally for the main event starting on 11th August.

One of our crew members, Paul, describes his experience of our first two races below:

Cervantes Trophy

Our first race was approximately 100 nautical miles from Cowes to Le Havre and, with a 10:00 am start time, the crew of Quantum Leap were up early and heading to Cowes full of enthusiasm.

The forecast was good, blowing a healthy F5-6 from the southwest. It was quite a spectacle seeing 100 or so yachts jostling around the start line, all keen to get a flying start when the cannon sounded. The wind was picking up so we quickly reefed the main, crossing the line a couple of minutes behind the pack. We were soon flying down the eastern Solent toward No Man’s Land Fort.

We considered putting the spinnaker up but a few yachts were clearly wresting with theirs and frequently rounding up into the wind. So we decided to leave ours in the bag and rely on a reefed mainsail and genoa.


We soon rounded the fort and set a course for Le Havre. The wind direction meant we weren't going to need to tack, so we settled into our watch system and concentrated on trimming the sails to try to squeeze the maximum out of Quantum Leap. The wind picked up, blowing a good 30 knots with higher gusts, and the sea state was a little rougher than we had anticipated. The helmsman had his work cut out holding course.

Storm Sail PracticeWith the mid-channel A5 buoy safely passed to port we pressed on towards Le Havre, making good progress. Seasickness had taken a bit of a toll on the crew but spirits lifted as we approached the final race marks. Around 2am we were approaching the finish line in a pack of 4 yachts. We radioed in our final approach, noted our time as we crossed the finish line, and then headed for the marina to look for a pontoon.

We completed our first race in a respectable 22nd position in class with a corrected time of 13 hours 26 minutes. It was good to get our heads down to catch a few hours sleep, dry out some gear and get a hearty 'Full English' breakfast.

After a quick race debrief, highlighting lessons learnt, we readied Quantum Leap for the return to Gosport. We used the return trip to hone our sail changing and trimming skills. The sea state had calmed and we were greeted with a thick fog just south of the IOW, so it was all hands on deck for extra watch keeping, ensuring that we got safely back to our berth in Gosport.

De Guingand Bowl

The second of our qualification races took us to St Peter Port on Guernsey. With a start time of 16:00 we had time for more leisurely preparation and run up to the Cowes start line. The forecast however meant the race was going to be anything but leisurely. With South Westerly winds up to 30knots expected, we would be in for a long hard beat across the channel; hence we replaced the genoa with the jib in anticipation.

Our lessons from the Cervantes Trophy start meant we got off the line more quickly. With full mainsail and jib we had a good run to Hurst Point, having to do only one short tack to round the Needles. We then set a course to pass the SE tip of the Casquets TSS, which had been designated an exclusion zone. We sailed as close to the wind as we could but with the tide taking us west and the wind backing we started heading for the middle of the TSS. So we tacked onto a more southerly course that would take us clear of the exclusion zone.

Lovely Sailing WeatherWith the swell getting up, possibly as much as 4m, our wet weather gear was being properly tested as waves broke over the cockpit. Again seasickness was taking a toll, conditions in the saloon were tough and it was difficult even to make a brew. Alderney and the Casquets lighthouse came into view on our port side but, in such a heavy sea, even that was dipping in and out of sight. By this time we had 3 reefs in the main but, with a full jib, were still making good progress. The wind was regularly gusting to 35knots and this was proving a long tough night.

The tide turned, with the result that our course was not going keep Guernsey and the Les Hanois Lighthouse to port, as the course required. We had to take a long tack west before we were able to round the lighthouse. It was an awesome sight, seeing large waves crashing over the rocks of the Guernsey coast.

We were on the final approach now and the castle off St Peter's Port marked the finish line. We crossed the line at approximately 12:30 and as we radioed race control we were greeted with an invitation to join them in the yacht club bar. Now that did seem like a good idea! We’d improved our position coming 12th out of 20 in class, with a corrected time of 20 hours and 1 minute. A big breakfast was long overdue and once again the boom was turned into a drying rail with just about every piece of gear hung out to dry.

For our return we took a more direct course through the Alderney races and cross channel direct to Gosport. Once again the return was calmer which gave us opportunity to practice sail changing and MOB.

With only two weeks before the Morgan Cup race the lessons will still be fresh from the experiences of this weekend and hopefully we will improve our position again.

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