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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Pinsent's Fastnet adventure

Matthew Pinsent
Matthew's time at sea didn't go according to plan

Inside Sport reporter Matthew Pinsent braved the high seas to take part in the famous Fastnet yacht race.

He was aboard Dee Caffari's Aviva Ocean Racing which, along with with other boats, had to withdraw from the competition when the mainsail ripped in bad weather.

But despite failing to finish the 608-mile course from Cowes to Plymouth via Fastnet Rock, the Olympic rower still has plenty of tales to tell.

Here is his race diary.

So I'm back on dry land and the gentle side to side motion of my brain has allowed the Fastnet experience to settle into some kind of focus. What an experience both positive and negative.

Here's how it all unfolded:


1600 - In the park with my wife and twin one-year old boys and I got the phone call that says for the first time in its history the Fastnet Race was to be delayed.

It's a sobering thought that the weather could be so bad it could be like the 1979 race when 15 of the competitors lost their lives in a summer storm that swept up the Western Approaches.

I calmed my own concerns and that of my wife that I am joining a crew (Dee Caffari and Mike Broughton) who have every possible qualification and experience necessary.

Matthew Pinsent
Matthew's ship-shape and ready for action


Depart for Southampton with the camera and all my kit at about 1900 and check into the hotel near the Hamble.


0800 - Breakfast and taxi to the jetty at the Hamble.

Mike Broughton is there to meet me and we chat in a relaxed way about the race and the weather forecast - its not looking good for a couple of days time.

We are picked up by the Aviva shore crew in the rib (speedboat) and run out into the Solent.

The Fastnet fleet is everywhere all shapes and sizes, world champions and families, domestic and foreign, sea dog and raw novice.

"This is going to be a baptism of fire" is Dee's first words as I step aboard Aviva.

I'm too nervous and excited to do anything but smile and laugh it off. I put on my lifejacket little knowing that I wouldn't take it off for 40 hours.

1100 - The start of the race for our class. It's obvious right from the gun that there are some boats who are way quicker than us - but Aviva is a decade old and showing her age against Open 60's who are fresh out of the mould.

Mike Broughton our navigator plays his cards brilliantly though and as the majority of the fleet head out into the Channel Aviva hugs the south coast looking for tides and breezes that others have overlooked.

Matthew Pinsent
Even Olympic champions get seasick

1300 - Sea sickness sets in for me.

Mike and Dee are matter of fact about it - they've seen it before and whilst stopping short of sympathy make it clear its not a sign of weakness to spend a good few hours feeling terrible.

I find anything I eat doesn't stay down for long. The only respite is horizontal on one of the bunks, bucket near at hand.

1700 - The wind begins to strengthen as we head down towards Plymouth, we are in the second half of our class but hanging in with the quickest.

The two maxi yachts speed past us on their journey out into the Irish Sea - it's a matter of great satisfaction that they have chosen the same course as us.

Though we weren't to know it then Leopard was to go on and break the record.

2200 - Darkness falls and a strong wind begins to whip spray and rain across the deck cutting the visibility to next to nothing.

There are two worn areas that can be repaired and one rip which can't.

With the autopilot on steering us out into the Irish Sea Dee and Mike have to take turns on deck keeping watch for lights and other competitors.

Incapacitated by the weary relentlessness of the sea sickness I spend the night on my bunk trying to stay warm and dry.

Every so often Dee and Mike splash into the cabin with just their eyes showing out of their waterproofs.

They are having a sleepless night whilst I am in comparative luxury.


0300 - Awake to find Dee legs propped on the navigation table fast asleep in her waterproofs.

0700 - In the grey early light we do an assessment of where we are and what state we are in.

With the mainsail reefed down overnight in the worst of the weather - the rain pooling in the folds along the boom has caused some damage.

There are two worn areas that can be repaired and one rip which can't.

The Aviva boat
Aviva Ocean Racing yacht suffered damage to the mainsail

If we go on we'd have to do it with two thirds of our mainsail up and if the split gets worse Dee has a twenty grand bill for a new one when we get back to Plymouth.

In a three way discussion between two tired competitors and one sea sick media person we take the decision to withdraw from the race and head back to Portsmouth.

1200 - The turn has changed the motion of the boat and instead of crashing into the seas Aviva is surfing back on top of the waves.

The motion is entirely different and my sea sickness recedes, I start eating and drinking again and what's more keeping it all down.

1700 - Catching forty winks in my bunk (again!) I wake to find the sound of the hull and the water rushing past inches from my head completely different to anything so far on the trip.

Going on deck I find Dee smiling from ear to ear at the speed and power of her boat down wind, we'd just topped 22 knots.

1900 - A few hours on deck with Mike and the sea for company. It's the best and most useful I've felt all trip.

Fastnet race tracker
Aviva's curtailed race route (courtesy of OC Vision)


0100 - We are off the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.

0200 - The last few tacks into the Solent are pretty hairy.

The wind is whipping around at just over thirty knots and in one of the busiest shipping channels we are speeding back towards port at fifteen knots.

Everyone is on deck looking out for buoys, others small craft and large boats.

0400 - Back onto the pontoon and I wearily pack up my kit into may bag and say my goodbyes.

0500 - Finally out of my weatherproofs and standing in the hotel shower in Portsmouth I can't work out if the towels are swaying or I am.

Matthew is making a film of his adventure which you can see on the new series of Inside Sport, which returns at 2305 BST on Monday 3 September.



Pinsent's Fastnet race diary
14 Aug 07 |  Inside Sport
Pinsent's Fastnet photo diary
20 Aug 07 |  Inside Sport
Crews under way in Fastnet race
13 Aug 07 |  Hampshire
Inside Sport: how to get involved
30 Apr 07 |  Inside Sport


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