In the Spring of 2013, a chat with Louise inspired Lucy to gather a team of women and enter “Southern Child” into the Rolex Fastnet Race, but with sights seton the Maite de Arambalza Trophy. Lucy said, “We are not campaigning for the Fastnet to only be an all women’s sailing team. We are here to say ‘why can’t there be a group of girls getting together to sail. Boys do it all the time.”
And Lucy is ready to bring everything to the table– and beat the boys.
There’s not much stopping “Southern Child” from being a serious competitor. “Southern Child” is kitted out with North Sail’s top gear. In her wardrobe there is a 3Di main, 3Di and 3DL genoas, 3 spinnakers, a code zero, and a spinnaker staysail.
On our first downwind leg, surrounded by the entire fleet, Lucy squealed with joy as “Northern Child’s” spinnaker got closer and closer. Every gust and lift was a valuable opportunity not to be missed. Soon, despite a hectic start, “Southern Child,” was picking boats off one by one.
Naturally, the enthusiasm was infectious and the girls pushed themselves quite hard, especially since most of them were not trained to sail non-stop all night. As the night progressed, the girls exhausted themselves. Few took the rare opportunities to sleep, others ignored these chances and attempted to push through. Many of the more experienced crew stressed how important it was to take advantage of the sleeping moments; Exhaustion can lead to laziness and fouled maneuvers.
The majority of the crew was not professional, and the Morgans Cup became a learning experience for the crew. Aside from Lucy, who has competitively sailed for over fourteen years, there were two to other professionals. First mate Debbi Smith, a retired British Marine, has sailed since she could remember, and this was most evident when she effortlessly helmed downwind using one hand. Katherine “Bertie” Whitley, who’s sailing CV includes multiple Caribbean 600s, 4 Atlantic Crossings, 3 Cape Horn roundings, and one summer in Antarctica.
With the assistance from these three, the less experienced sailors were told to play it safe. As the “Southern Child” crew prepared to a jibe, Bertie said, “Let’s do this nice and methodically, and check everything as we do it.” Although time was of the essence, safety was first.
At 2200 we rounded the downwind mark, along with the what felt like the rest of the fleet. Despite the excitement of catching up, dousing the spinnaker and becoming blinded by the flashing cardinal, everyone remained calm and the girls were focused on “Southern Child.”
Debbie reminded the crew be conscious of their actions to think forward and not go on auto pilot, “As the race progresses and confidence grows, remember to look up and see what you are doing. If what you’re pulling, does not work, then ask “why?” You might be pulling against someone on the foredeck and creating a dangerous situation.”
Each and everyone of the girls was incredibly keen to successfully sail. Lilly, 19, currently on her gap year, couldn’t stop smiling– even as she tried to sleep on the rail with cold English seas spraying her without relent. “I will definitely do a lot more sailing per result of this event,” she said.
The biggest reason for such a successful race was the lack of egos on the boat. Jamie said, “This is the calmest boat I’ve ever been on.” No one cried nor screamed– and if one of them broke a nail, the rest of the crew didn’t hear about it.
The race was a technical event as the girls battled variable winds, English channel traffic, and the infamous tides of the Channel– at night, of course. Yet, the atmosphere remained positive.
The atmosphere allowed the team to enjoy surreal moments together. At 5am when the sun began to rise we cruised along at 7kts with the spinnaker. Bacon was sizzling in the pan. No other boats were in sight. The girls couldn’t help but giggle– where was everyone?
Turned out, they were all behind “Southern Child.”
The girls had an unbelievably successful weekend. Not only did they beat Lucy’s husband and the boys on “Northern Child,” but they also beat the majority of the other boys in the fleet. The girls came 10th in class (out of 30) and 19th in fleet (out of 109). It goes without saying that the end of race rosé was well deserved.
This was certainly a humbling event for the men’s boats. In France, most of the men swallowed their pride, cheekily avoided eye contact, and hung their heads as they admitted defeat. Some men even spoke of their true jealousy; however, not in regards to losing to “Southern Child” but because Lucy “is a really cool girl” and they were jealous she will not be taking on any guys for the Fastnet.
The Morgans Cup was a qualifying race for the 2013 Fastnet Race. Fifty percent of “Southern Child’s” crew must complete 300 miles offshore racing together (mostly for safety purposes). This was the first race for the team of girls, and was a total of 118nm, their next race will be the Cowes to St. Malo Race.