I had an Alarm call at 5am. Got up and found its literally freezing, but dogs still interested in any early morning exercise on offer. Getting to the yacht found the crew were all up and about and grateful for the fan heater. Andy C and Di arrived as promised so the engine was started and we gently backed zigzaging out of the berth. Major course alteration in ice has to be taken in small shuffles which I discovered and learnt many years ago when my tanker was rescued in thick ice by an icebreaker north of Stockholm and it took us hours to get free and shuffle into the wake of the icebreaker ahead.
Slowly we crunched down to the lock and out into free water as dawn came apon us. The decks were very slippery so every movement had to be thought about before doing it and all the lines were like steel rods to handle.
As predicted there was little or no wind this early in the morning so we motored down the harbour, over the bar and towards the Solent. With the sun up at last the deck ice melted, but the helm had to be changed frequently as we were now motoring manfully now against tide into the strengthening icy wind and everybody felt the cold keenly. After some hours of this we got to the start mark at around 10.30 and decided to have a reef in the main and No2 geny as we were so cold we could not stand any spray or getting wet.
At the start we were not too bad but others on the long course soon overtook us with full sail area up and that was that. At least we kept the leader on the water in view all the time and by the time we were on the last leg the apparent wind was up to 25knots in the strong ebb tide off Norris so Ronhilda at last started to get moving and his leeward rail approached the water.
We had been going for over 8 hours by now so in spite of lots of hot bacon, sausages and drinks, the finish could not have come soon enough however, my metal hips tend to sieze up in conditions like this, and we downed sails off of Cowes and motored up to the Folly. Here we were kindly allowed to raft 4 out on the Pub pontoon. Relief and warmth returned when we went on board Arc Angel for drinks and found they had an on board heater.
The meal was up to the usual Folly standards and dancing commenced on the tables afterwards. I had an early night as the early start had rather finished me off.
Frost returned over night although I was snug enough in my sleeping bag it was no fun getting out to go to the toilet. The weather was forecast to get worse after noon so we left before 9 to get the flood tide as far as possible back to Chichester. Passing Cowes at 9, we had nearly two hours of slow gentle spinnakering in 1/2 knots apparent wind and took in a large breakfast in the sun as far as Mother Bank when reluctantly the motor was turned on as the tide then turned.
As I write this I have not looked at the results as we surely must have come last but no matter, not for the first ime in a December it was a good but cold sail on the Saturday and a great gentle return on the Sunday.
Many thanks to my crew