The phone rings on a Thursday afternoon. ‘What are you doing early next week?’ is the question from the editor at the other end. ‘Any chance you can go to Italy to sail and review an 85 for us?’
It turns out ‘early next week’ means Monday. And this 85 has an particularly significant background. We have to shuffle a few things around and cancel some of our planned work for the weekend. But by Friday evening, the flights are booked.
Early on Monday we board the plane ready to hit the ground running in Tuscany. It’s just as well. We’re collected by car at the airport and hoof it down the road to the marina, quizzing our host about the boat as we drive. We have one day: every minute counts. The car pulls up on the quayside and we jump straight into a waiting RIB. It blasts out into the bay to join the boat, which is already sailing. There’s a decent breeze, even if it is a bit of a grey old day, and we grab some photos. We also get rather wet, because travelling with just hand baggage to make things slicker precludes carrying much in the way of waterproofs, at least when you have lots of camera kit. We were prepared for that.
Photos in the can, we come alongside as the boat sails and hop aboard. We say hello to the builder, the skipper and the crew (a boat like this has a permanent crew) and are offered the wheel. Well, either or both of the twin wheels (in carbon, naturally).
We put the boat through her not-inconsiderable paces around the bay for an hour or so, then drop anchor, have a quick bite (it’s a long time since breakfast), get more of the story about the boat’s development from the builder and are given the technical tour by the skipper. He had an experience a few years ago that very few other people have had (even though most of the world got to hear about it) and he ensured provision was made on this boat to avoid a repeat.
After a quick sprint around on deck and below with the camera, it’s back in the RIB and ashore for a seriously good meal, with entertaining company from Holland, Germany, Italy and the UK. Then a night on a makeshift bed and the return run to the airport in the morning.
In terms of the amount of time spent on board in relation to the size and cost of the boat, it’s probably the quickest test/review we’ve ever done. It had to be, because that was the window of opportunity. Then back home to continue writing the report on the 50-footer we had tested in Hong Kong a few weeks earlier, which in turn was interrupted by a call from another editor about a feature on safety and seaworthiness in very small boats. So 50-footers, 85-footers, 20-footers – hey ho, they’re all boats. We do our best to fit them in whatever their size…
To the Sailing Scenes blog