A night aboard Celeste of Solent

October 2nd, 2009 by Fred

Although she is not as extreme as a VOR70, Celeste is not really a classical cruising yacht. Her length of 20 metres, 31-metre carbon-fibre mast, 235 m2 of sails and very high level of equipment rank her among the exceptional boats. Welcome on board!

We left Travemünde in Germany just after lunch and our goal for this leg was to reach Swinoujscie in Poland. My team took its watch at midnight. Flemming, our team leader, has been steering for the last hour. The wind is now around 25 knots, right in our back. These are not what we call bad conditions, but the waves make steering quite tricky. Christian replaces Flemming but, after less than three minutes, he makes an unexpected gibe. Fortunately, we had installed a safety rope long before this to prevent the boom suddenly changing side, which could result in some damage. So Flemming prefers not to repeat the experience and asks me to take the wheel.

Although it is quite windy, the temperature is still comfortable. The sky above us is full of beautiful stars and the Milky Way is perfectly visible. Without the moon, the night is very dark and it is impossible to see what is in front of us. We can see the Arkona lighthouse on our right. I can feel the movements of the boat on the waves, which are coming right in our back. It reminds me of the old days when I was a helmsman aboard a racing boat half the size of Celeste. It’s good to enjoy these memories.

The speed is good and I try to surf each wave. I like these moments when the boat goes into overspeed. 11… 12… 13… I hear Bengt, the skipper who joined us on the deck, telling me 14.1 knots over ground! This will be the top speed of our trip! This boat is really incredible. As Kjell, a crew member who is making his fifth trip aboard the Celeste, told me before we left Göteborg: “You will like it. You will love it!”.

We pass Cape Arkona. Bengt and Flemming go to the front to lower the spinnaker boom. Like everything we need to do on this big boat, it takes quite a long time. I try to keep Celeste as stable as I can. Finally, the spinnaker boom is stored on the deck. We are almost ready to gibe now. Bengt takes the wheel and my job now is to sheet in the mainsail until it is in the axe of the boat. I put all my force on the winch handle to do this as quickly as possible. Christian has to help me at the end, as it is starting to get difficult. The foresail and then the boom change sides and I free out the mainsail.

I can take back the wheel until the end of the watch. We are sailing at 10 knots and at a 60° apparent wind angle, so steering is now much easier. For the moment, the situation is probably less comfortable for people resting in the bunks. However, the land will soon protect us from large waves. Almost 3 AM. I see people from the next watch coming on deck. Good morning guys! I will soon benefit from a good rest with the wind and stars in my head.

Mots clés : Sailing