After our great start on Boxing Day, the four crew rapidly set about getting into the rhythm of our lives for the next three or so weeks.
Cuttlefish? Flying fish?
Sleep, sail, eat, as one yachtie wag put it. And indeed, for all expectations of time to read edifying novels or poetry, listen to music, or to cogitate and put the world to rights, there has been precious little time for that yet.
Perhaps, as we enter the trades, that opportunity will come, but I am beginning to think it chimeric.
After the start, we headed more west than other competitors to take advantage of better winds in that direction. I think we were wrong, as the following day we were becalmed for a few hours before deciding to change strategy and head north.
I am not sure that they were playing follow the leader, but three boats, Marie Galante, JML Rotary Scout and Bolero all did the same thing of heading west. They have persisted where we did not. It will be interesting to see who was correct.
We then set about hunting down Avanti, our closest rival on handicap. She had elected to follow the conventional coastal routing – heading up the coast as far as the Namibian border before routing north west.
Over Wednesday, we gradually cut her lead, and by midnight on Thursday morning, we had actually overtaken her, largely due to some very high speed downwind sailing under the spinnaker – often hitting speeds, in the dark and with lumpy seas, of in excess of 12 knots…
And then the spinnaker pole snapped. Or folded in two.
This is Not Good, and may have put paid to our ambitions of winning the class, as we do not have a spare on board and the race is essentially downwind.
So after tidying the mess of ropes up and unfurling the genoa, we each went to sleep after our watch feeling despondent.
Yesterday morning, we appraised the damage, and realised that we might be able to salvage things by repurposing the radar mounting, and inserting that into the two remaining good portions of the old pole to create a new one.
We set about cutting the bent piece off the old pole and using a hacksaw to cut down the old radar mount. Today will see us try to put it all together.
Petri preparing the broken pole for surgery
Despite this, we have been sailing as hard as we can to stop Avanti from establishing an unassailable lead. Conditions could not be better, constant winds from behind us, seas good for getting the boat to surf….
We need to get the spinnaker flying again.
* flying fish
* an albatross
Vignettes of life aboard. It’s dark, 4 am boat time. We have two official time systems on board: UTC, GMT before it was decolonised; and boat time, which is synced roughly to our longitude. At present boat time is an hour ahead of UTC and an hour behind Cape Town.
In the dim red glow of a head torch, one fumbles for one’s boots, trousers, anorak, beanie and gloves. It’s not really cold but the wind off the sea chills, and the occasional wave finds its way onto the deck.
A quick cup of coffee, made from still-hot water in the thermos from the night before. Last, put on the Personal Flotation Device (Pfd), a gilet-like inflatable life jacket with a veritable McGyver set of gadgets built in inside.
A water-activated torch, a device that sends a distress message to the boat’s GPS system to alert the (usually sleeping) crew if I disappear over the back – something less likely now that Petri’s cats cradle of a sunshade solution is installed; there are so many tiedowns that I’m more likely to be caught like a fish in a net.
I climb from the warm – too warm – cabin onto the deck. A quick chat with Ollie. Sea state? Wind? Course to steer? Maneuvering around to the wheel, I clip myself onto a strong point with a tether tied to the PFD.
Ollie is gone. And so the watch begins. A glance at the compass. Pick a star to steer by (I remind myself again that next time I’ll bring my star atlas onto deck).
There’s no moon. Just Jupiter, which casts a dim gleam over the water, and stars. So many stars. Feeling the swell rise and lift the boat, trying to time the quick flick of the rudder to get her surfing for a few meters.
And then back to a glance at the compass, the star, the sea.