It really doesn’t seem that long ago that a group of SOLers (virtual sailors who race on Sailonline.org) were idly chatting one evening in race chat about the fun it would be to race, in reality, in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The comment was out there in chat. There seemed to be a pause in conversation, just a really small one, but you could sense the wind of possibility swirl through people’s minds, and then … several SOLers chipped in with enthusiastic, encouraging and wishful comments. The thought had been engendered, though, and it wasn’t too long before the seed of “daring to dream” began to grow.
Sailonline may be a free-to-play virtual sailing navigation simulator, but it is also firmly entrenched in the real sailing world with many SOLers sailing in reality. A genuine meeting place where landlubbers and ocean racers rub shoulders and where egos (mostly) are left at the log-in screen. There is one fundamental rule applicable to all SOLers, though, which is, “be yourself” – no-one minds if you’ve never sailed, or if you sailed 40yrs ago, or if you own your own yacht, or if you compete regularly in international sail-racing competitions… everyone is welcome to participate.
Thus it was not beyond the realms of possibility that a group of SOLers, with relevant experience, might form a crew to qualify for and compete in The Rolex Fastnet Race. With a core group of Brits, one of whom had a yacht that with a little time, a lot of effort and some money, could be brought up to “code”, and a scattering of SOLers from across the globe, all of whom were prepared to undergo the relevant safety training and to satisfy RORC’s crew requirements, the project began to take shape.
The two qualifying races that Jubilant participated in, The Cervantes Trophy and The Myth of Malham, were real shake-down exercises – highlighting the strengths and the weaknesses among the crew. For a disparate group of people who had only met in the virtual sailing world of Sailonline to commit to racing as a crew in one of Britain’s toughest offshore races meant that it was essential, almost from the first moment, that a sense of “crew” was developed. Without this sense of teamwork, safety is compromised and, at this level of sailing, where a high level of sailing competence and navigational skill is expected, safety has to be paramount. Sadly, personal reasons led to two potential racers dropping out – the Australian and a Brit – so ultimately the crew of SOLers that is taking Jubilant to sea on 11 August 2013 will be:
ybw_mjm (GBR) – Martin Johnson (Skipper)
Amigo do Boteco1 (POR/BRA) – Armando Faria
BER_Baggus (BER) – Jeremy Burnham
Chaos (USA) – Tony Leigh
Gilles (ITA) – Gilberto Gaitano
sadlersailing (GBR) – Nigel Gilchrist
CG (GBR) – Sophie Turner
Jubilant is ready – thanks to the sterling work of her skipper, she was fully accredited on the RORC system with plenty of time in hand – and is just awaiting her crew.
Martin has no distance to travel as he lives aboard Jubilant. Sophie is “down the road” in Plymouth. Armando will be flying in from Brazil, Jeremy from Bermuda and Tony from E Coast USA. Gilberto will be flying in from Germany, while Nigel will be sailing back from the shores of Belgium/Holland
With just eleven days to go, focus is moving rapidly towards racing, tactics and the challenge that is the legendary weather of the Fastnet Race!
…COUNTDOWN NOTES to be continued…