Azores and Back:
Ocean Yacht Race

In Haven KJ’s first race of this year, two of our intrepid crewmates from ‘Haven KJ Enigma’ are attempting to complete the challenging MailASail Azores and Back race (AZAB). Ian Braham and Pete Eyre are our bold team who plan to take on this double handed Category 1 ocean race of two legs of 1,170 nautical miles each.

Our crew are setting off for their biggest challenge on June 3rd
We can track their boat and the rest of the fleet!

The Crew

Ian Braham, owner and Skipper of Haven KJ Enigma

Ian’s first boat was at the age of 9, proud owner of a 7 foot pram dinghy with a gunter rig.  He then progressed to crewing Herons and Enterprises, before moving into Yacht racing in his late teens.


Pete Eyre, crew of Haven KJ Enigma

Pete grew up in the North West of Ireland, offering amazing sailing areas his passion started off the back of his older brother buying a GP14 sailing dinghy, and he has never looked back!

The Azores and Back with Ian and Peter

The Azores and Back yacht race started in 1975 through a need for a race through the ocean which starts and finishes in good old Blighty. It is held every four years by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club (AZAB – The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club). This race is an amazing opportunity that is open to all comers from experienced racers to local cruisers all looking for a challenge. This means there are many boats in the entry list!

2023 marks the 13th edition of this thrilling race across the eastern Atlantic and will leave Falmouth on the 3rd June. From Falmouth, it is down to the skill of the sailors to to be the first person find the fastest route and best conditions to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, one of the nine Azores archipelago islands. Stopping over here allows for the teams to have some well-earned R&R between the multiple legs and prepare for the return passage. The return leg back to Falmouth starts on the 20th June.

We are hoping to put together an exciting package of images, interviews and webinars that will give a real insight to everyone looking to take on any challenging event in their boating careers. You can expect anything from webinars about planning to actual footage from out on the water and interviews with the crew. You will also be able to follow them on the tracking app which you will be able to find here when the event starts.

Keep an eye on their progress here and follow our social media channels for any updates as they happen.

Prior to taking part in the 2023 Azores and Back (AZAB) Race, Haven K-J Enigma’s overwinter preparations have come to an end and was launched back into the water at Parkstone Yacht Club in Poole.

**1st OVERALL**

What an achievement, well done to Ian and Pete!

Not only did they place 1st in their Class, based on corrected time ‘Haven KJ Enigma’ are also placed 1st Overall in Leg 1. By over 4 hours!

We managed to catch up with the crew before they set off to complete their final Leg.



Behind the Scenes

Q. How long have you been sailing for?

Ian –  Since I was a child. My first boat was a 7 foot pram dinghy with a gunter rig when I was about 9, which I would launch from the beach. I then progressed to crewing in Herons and Enterprises, before moving into yacht racing in my late teens.

Pete – I’ve been sailing for almost 30 years.

Q. How did you get into sailing to begin with?

Ian – When I was growing up, my parents had small sailing boats, including a Trident 24 and an Offshore 8m. So it was inevitable that I would develop an interest in sailing. I bought my first “yacht”, a UFO 27, when I was 25 and spent the next 7 years racing and cruising on the south coast and cross-channel. The longest trip was the 2-handed Triangle Race, Torquay – Cork – Treguier – Torquay. The first leg took 3 days and 4 hours!

Pete – My older brother did a sailing course as a teenager and a short time after that he clubbed together with a friend to buy a GP14 sailing dinghy (It was very much a doer upper). Things snowballed from there and my sister and I got hooked pretty rapidly also. Neither of our parents were into boats at all but they were incredibly supportive. I remember our first and only family meeting we had where we ended up holding a vote to either go on our annual summer holiday to Majorca for two weeks or buy a boat. Our parents must have thought it was a sure bet, we wouldn’t forfeit a holiday abroad in the sun but democracy played out and we soon took ownership of a Jaguar 22 lifting keel. Growing up in the North West of Ireland, the sailing areas are amazing and with so few people on the water the freedom we had growing up was incredible.

Q. Tell us more about your boat, Haven KJ Enigma.

Ian – HKJ Enigma is an MG 346, designed by Tony Castro and built in 1992 by Northshore Yachts, who were the builders of Southerlys. So a good design which was well built! The set-up of the boat is geared more for fully crewed, inshore / shorter offshore racing. For example, we have multiple headsails rather than a furler and a mainsail with a bolt rope. So not ideal for shorthanded sailing, but manageable. I have owned HKJ Enigma for 19 years, so I know her quite well!

Pete – Ian owns the boat, I’ve sailed with him on the same boat since 2010 so I know her pretty well. The MG346 is an excellent cruiser racer designed in the 80’s. There is nothing extreme about the design, it is kind of average everything which I think is its greatest strength in terms of its performance within the IRC handicap system. We won’t see double digits on the speedo too often but it is a great boat for consistently grinding down the miles.

Q. When did you decide to enter AZAB 2023?

Ian –  Pete Eyre and I discussed doing the AZAB early last year. We have sailed together for about 12 years and Pete was a key part of the two Fastnet Races we have completed, in 2011 and 2015. Being two-handed, having a completely reliable co-skipper is vital and Pete is ideal.

Pete – My recollection is slightly hazy but like most great ideas I think it was first discussed in the club house over a couple of pints! Initially I didn’t really believe it was going to be possible to put the real world on hold for 4 weeks to head off sailing but over time it slowly turned from a nice idea into an idea that we really needed to make happen!

Q. What did you have to do to qualify for entry?

Ian – There are a number of requirements in terms of the boat and equipment, plus the requirements for a 300 nm qualifying passage. We completed this in August last year, leaving Poole on a Friday morning, sailing south to a position SW of Jersey, then back across the channel to the Eddystone lighthouse south of Plymouth and then back to Poole. The first 2 legs were quite quick, but the lack of wind meant that the final leg took about 20 hours.

Pete – To qualify we need to demonstrate the boat meets certain design criteria and that it is in good condition and is fitted with the appropriate safety equipment. We also need to demonstrate we are personally prepared by doing things like the sea survival course and by logging a > 300 nautical mile sail double handed.

Q. How long have you been planning to do AZAB?

Ian and Pete – Since early last year.

Q. What preparation have you done to date for the AZAB race?

Ian – Various work on the boat to make it suitable for two 10 day passages. Power is a big issue, as with only two of use on board we’ll been to use the autopilot quite a lot. I have upgraded the split-charging unit and also have a new, larger alternator to fit.  Also, we have a 100 watt solar panel and controller, to provide some level of charging during the day. This won’t be enough to cover the amount of power used, but will help. The engine will need to be run (out of gear!) perhaps twice per day to top-up as required. The panel is proving a challenge to position, as its quite big!

Pete – Pretty early on we got our 300 nautical mile qualifying sail under our belt. That was as much about figuring out if we were going to commit to the race as it was about training and gaining experience in double handed offshore mode. We learnt plenty, generated a sizable jobs list and within about an hour of being back on land it was clear that we just had to do the race. I’ve also been spending time over the winter increasing my familiarity with our weather routing tools as our navigation will play such a big part in our performance and our seamanship.

Q. What preparation will you be doing in the coming months?

Ian – Part of the requirement is for survival training, which is a two-day course run by a sailing school in the Solent. First Aid is also a requirement and both of us have already completed this at our home club, Parkstone Yacht Club.

Pete – I’ve also been putting hours in at the gym working on fitness and core strength. I think it helps for feeling prepared for a race like this and my hope is that having good baseline fitness should hopefully keep any niggles or injuries at bay. As we get closer to the race start the boat work is ramping up rapidly as we find more and more things to get sorted or improve

Q. What kit will you need for a safe passage?

Ian – Personal kit including waterproofs, lifejackets, harness lines, boots etc. Then boat kit including a liferaft, grab-bag, flares, multiple VHF radios, AIS transceiver, satellite phone and numerous other items. It’s a really long list!

Pete – We are carrying a few things that we wouldn’t normally have on board.  We will each have an AIS man overboard beacon installed within our lifejackets. This will be a first for me and it is really good to have an extra layer of security, especially when sailing double handed.

Q. What do you think will be the biggest challenge in completing the AZAB race?

Ian – Weather forecasting and finding the best route based on this, both for safety and for speed. We have bought an Iridium Go satellite communication system, which still needs to be installed.  This will be capable of downloading weather data files.  These can then be fed into weather routing software, which will suggest a given course based on entered data. It will be a really useful system, provided the forecast data is accurate!

Pete – There will be plenty of challenges! For us we will need to find the right tempo for offshore sailing which is quite different to the inshore crewed racing that we are most used to. Managing sleep, dealing with seasickness, having good decision making when exhausted and dealing with whatever the weather throws at us will be key. The first few days may be the trickiest whilst we find our rhythm.

Q. How do you make your boat more seaworthy for heavy weather conditions?

Ian – After 19 years and many, many thousands of miles sailed, I have great confidence in HKJ Enigma. However, potential gear failure is a major safety issue on any boat and preventing this is key. For example, I have had the mast and rigging checked by a rigger. One of the requirements is for a rudder and keel check, which has also been successfully completed. The whole boat will be carefully checked and gear replaced where needed. In fact I am half-way through rebuilding the top-end of the engine at the moment. This is to ensure the engine is reliable, both for safety reasons and for charging of batteries.

Pete – There are some simple things that make a big difference. If/when  things go wrong problems often compound rapidly. Simple things like making sure everything is stowed securely is a big one. Anticipating changes in conditions and making the sail changes in good time is also really important.

Q. What are you most looking forward to?

Ian – Firstly, getting to the start line! Once we are underway, I am looking forward to getting into a good watch routine. Then arriving in Ponta Delgada in the Azores will be really special. I expect a shower and the first beer will also be quite nice!

Pete – I’m looking forward to the adventure of being at sea for an extended time, the luxury of being able to focus on one goal for 8 to 10 days with no distractions and the competitive element of the race to keep things interesting. I’ve been to the Azores before, it is a fabulous place so I am hopeful we will get a chance to relax and explore whilst we are there with hopefully only modest boat repairs to do before the return leg.

Q. How much do you estimate will be your total spend to enter this race?

Ian – I am not keeping a running total . . . . deliberately!  By the time we finish, with the cost of new equipment and replacements, training, insurance, work on sails, food, expenses, entry and numerous other costs, will be many thousands of pounds. The time away from work also needs to be considered, as both of us will not be working for 4 or 5 weeks. But of course it’ll be worth it!

Pete – We are doing the race on quite a modest budget and it is fair to say that I’m lucky to not be the boat owner! Whichever way you look at it though, it is lots of money and lots of time but it will absolutely be worth it!

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Meet the award winning crew