Wednesday 31st May 2017
Robert Darell, the new owner of X4³ “Sophia”shares his experiences of sailing his new yacht back to her new home in the UK.
Having agreed to buy Hull No.1 in November 2016 of the new X4³, the time had finally come at the beginning of May to travel to Haderslev to prepare to sail “SOPHIA” back to Hamble Point. The boat had only been lightly used, mainly as a demonstrator in 2016 and was therefore sold as new with a wealth of extras including a set of rather cool black North 3Di sails.
I was really lucky to have recruited 3 friends from the Isle of Wight to sail with me, include Mark Wynter, commodore of the Island Sailing Club and a proud owner of an X332 “Alexa”. We set off early in the morning of Wednesday 3rd May for the 60 miles south to Kiel with a reef in the main on a bright, blustery but freezing cold day with an ENE wind between 20-25knots over the deck. What a fantastic first shakedown cruise, Sophia handled the breaking waves on the beam effortlessly with the boat remaining amazingly dry and very stable throughout. This was another world compared to my previous X-37 and we surfed into Kiel at over 12 knots to end an exhilarating day’s sailing.
The next morning after a couple of hours wait to enter the Kiel canal, we were finally allowed in for an 8 hour motor through the German countryside ensuring we stayed well clear of the large cargo and container ships passing through with us. Our original plan to exit the canal and stop in Cuxhaven for the night was changed to mooring up in Brunsbuttel just next to the lock gates. Mooring in the small quayside marina with a following Force 6 pushing us through the narrow entrance was a hairy affair given this was only day 2 of ownership. We left the canal at 0900 the following morning for the first lengthy passage around the Friesian islands for what was reckoned to be a 30 hour trip to Den Helder. With a steady Force 4-5 from NNW Sophia flew past Den Helder in just under 24 hours so we decided to carry on to Ijmuiden to allow for a bit of shore leave on a Saturday night in Amsterdam, an eye opener for our youngest crew member Kieran who had never seen the sights before and came away planning a return visit with his friends.
The following morning, we were away for the 24 hour trip to Calais past the incredibly busy waters around Rotterdam and Dunkirk. Thankfully Mark decided to play safe at dusk and go for second reef with a couple of furls in the jib. During the night the NW wind got up towards 30 knots with some driving rain which made the 3 hour watches quite demanding. Thankfully having the heating on down below meant that those off watch could dry their oilies and get some warm rest before returning to the elements. Again we were all amazed by the performance of Sophia who just cracked on apace taking the seas in her stride and aquaplaning with ease north of 10 knots. The morning saw us arriving off Calais along with some enormous ferries, much to the concern of the Port controllers and locking into the marina in ready for a good long lunch and a long siesta.
The following morning we set off for Cowes. We reached across the traffic lanes from Boulogne and as we turned West with a 15 knot ENE, it was time to try out the Asymetric spinnaker on its fancy carbon furling drum. This was sailing with a huge smile, the sun was out, it was feeling a lot warmer and we even had a porpoise surfing in our wake for company. We kept the kite up charging along at 8-9 knots until dusk off Bognor before gybing in towards the Eastern Solent and motor sailing into Cowes where we tied up in the Yacht haven just after midnight for a well deserved sleep.
I was incredibly grateful to my friends for sailing back with me, they were excellent company and their experience was invaluable. It was with a heavy heart that I left them in Cowes and even sadder to leave Sophia in the marina and get the train back to London after a fantastic week’s sailing adventure.
I look forward to some excellent sailing this summer with family and friends on what is a wonderful boat to sail.
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