White Ocean Racing

May 25.

Loïck Peyron, Armel le Cleac'h and Yann Elies complete the race.

Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) arrived at the finish line in Boston just after midnight yesterday, followed by Armel le Cleac'h (Brit Air) twelve hours later. At 4AM this morning Yann Elies (Generali) arrived to take third place.

Steve's blog Number 13 - Thunder and lightening.

My apologies for not writing yesterday, it all got a bit fraught. If you read below you'll see why........

We made good progress away from the ice gate that night (which now seems like a distant memory!), and headed off on the final leg toward Boston. I always feel like when I get to the Grand Banks or that longitude at any rate, that you are nearly there. Obviously this is not the case, you still have the best part of 1000 miles of racing still to go. This is the most tactical part too, with the Gulf Stream and it's eddies, changeable weather - the weather systems that generally finish up in the UK are born here where you have warm water and cooler air, and this is where I fell foul - you remember the clouds in the last blog?

I've never been one for worrying too much about clouds, I have had the odd really nasty one with lots of wind coming out of it, but generally you just plough on through. The clouds from the night before last were continually of the windy kind. By this time we were going upwind again, and there was an increase in wind as we went under the clouds, then, when we got to the raining clouds, there was some serious wind. It would go from 10 or 14 knots to 25 or 30 - the most we saw was 32 I think, which is not that much, but when you have sails up for 10 knots, you are quite over-canvassed in a second! And rain, boy, did it rain, like you've never seen before, pouring and blowing so as to flatten the waves. The power was awe-inspiring, big, black anvil topped clouds 20 miles across and more with wind and rain heading unavoidably towards you blotting out the stars.

Anyway, we got used to watching them come in on the radar (the rain shows up on radar), then dashing up on deck, putting in two reefs and just sitting there virtually becalmed, waiting to get nailed by an advancing wall of wind and rain that marches towards you, blowing the tops off the waves as it comes.There's nowhere to hide as the boat is often lays completely flat. Sometimes the wind was from a different direction altogether, and it would blow the sails back against the rigging and knock you over with the water ballast on the wrong side, creating boiling seething water below you as you cling to the deck which is heeled over to around 60 degrees- not a time to have a smooth deck or a nervous disposition either! The power is incredible and a little frightening with the ferocity and suddenness of the gusts - it's a bit like my bank statements, you know there coming, and you know they're going to be unpleasant, but you can't avoid them! Then they go and leave as suddenly as they came, leaving you floundering in their windless wake.

I was just getting used to this every half hour or so when a new element was introduced, lightening. Now you know the TV program about the world's worst weather which shows some very pretty purple lightening in the opening shots, we had it for real here, it was incredible - every minute without fail, giant purple flashes illuminating everything just like daylight. Being in a boat at sea you are the tallest thing for miles around, and a perfect lightening conductor. My friend was struck by lightening three times at sea, and I honestly thought that it was my turn then. I was concerned enough to turn off most electrical things in the hope that they wouldn't get fried, and I tried to sail around the worst and flashiest clouds whilst consoling myself with the thought that sheet lightening goes between the clouds and not to ground - I don't know if that is right but it made me feel much better! I had just convinced myself that this was indeed true when we started to get fork lightening too, which definitely was coming down. You can picture it now; towering massive clouds, no wind or loads and loads, torrential rain and also lightening. I really thought my time had come. I stayed in the cockpit so if I got struck and only moderately fried, I wouldn't fall overboard at least!

I thought we had done a good job avoiding the worst flashes, but inevitably, all around there was one with my name on it - I couldn't get out of the way. There was sheet and then forked lightening very, very close to the boat, and you could smell it, then the usual excessive wind and rain, and then it had passed. I don't know how we weren't hit, but I was very thankful that we weren't.

This went on all of the night before last, with the clouds losing their sun given energy and their vehemence by the dawn only to build again through yesterday. You can imagine with what felt like one cloud every hour or less, no cooked food, and reefs in and out like a yo-yo coupled with the odd minutes sleep here and there that I was feeling pretty low and very burned out by now. My frustration became complete when the wind between the clouds died to around 5 knots, and whatever I did I could only sail to the North East or South East away from Boston because again, we were in a 2 knot eddy of the Gulf Stream which was against us, I began to wonder what this sailing lark was all about!

By midnight your time last night, there was a beautiful sunset, and we finally had enough breeze to start very slowly heading or Boston. It built slowly through the night and now we are heading in as fast as we can under spinnaker. I feel like a new person - a proper meal and some sleep, and an easy day ahead I hope, and I will be back to 100%! Life is simple out here, it doesn't take too much for body and soul to bounce back, and for bad things to become vague memories. I don't want to put any reefs in for a bit though I can tell you!

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