White Ocean Racing

June 9 - Not a leisurely downwind trip!

Well this blog could almost read pretty much the same as the last one! We lurched from the last windy low pressure system straight into a secondary low that had formed in it's wake, as is often the case. It is also usual that a secondary low is more intense than it's parent, and this was no exception. When it appeared it was forecast to be quite mild, but taking no chances and not really wanting to pound upwind in 40 knots, we dived south to reach around below it as it was forecast to go north above us, but it had different ideas! We again finished off running before 40, then 45, and at the finish 50 to 56 knots, which was the maximum we saw. The sea state was now really big, with again, torrential rain, lightening and the like. The waves would hiss by and the boat would slide down their faces as the tops occasionally slammed into the side of or broke over the boat - pretty dangerous conditions to be on deck all in all!

As the wind was building and we were trucking along quite nicely, there was a big bang, and I came up on deck to find that the big stainless steel eye that the vang attaches to had ripped itself out of the deck, leaving a hole going into the water ballast tank as big as a ?5 note. You could see that the pad eye had been moving around a small amount for a while, but I didn't expect it to rip out like that. It had an aluminium backing pad, so with the stainless steel pad eye, stainless steel bolts and aluminium plate, all swimming in salt water "electrolyte" in the ballast tank, it had just fizzed away like a giant battery and dissolved the backplate! Poor boat, we were both really upset that it now had a hole. I am going to have to fill it in later when it calms down, and then open up the ballast tanks and repair all of those pad eyes on both sides properly when I get home before we do any corporate sailing - no rest for the wicked!

At 0730 this morning I woke Sam to gybe the boat and turn to the east for home, it was 1130 by the time we left the deck with the boat set up on it's new course! We waited and waited for a lull, found the pattern with the waves to wait for a couple of quiet ones, and went for it. You guessed it of course, the pattern went out of the window and we were hit by 55 knots again! I had been downstairs to start the engine and pump ballast up for the new gybe, but had to turn the engine off to get on deck and found that I had to climb up the sink to get out of the boat which was laid flat! All pretty hairy I can tell you!!! Then when we had gybed and settled down it took a couple more big wipe-outs to realise that the sea state was not going to allow us to carry as much sail on this gybe as the last one, we were just getting knocked about too much, so we reduced sail to four reefs in the main (Very small!) and the staysail, all in 45 to 55 knots, and still managed to it 18 knots of boatspeed, but it was much calmer and nicer downstairs!

After a tidy up on deck, we had to tackle things downstairs, and it was utter carnage. Where we had been knocked down there was diesel and water in the bilge, two boxes of food had taken a fall across the cabin and kindly soaked up some of the diesel! The place stank! Sam took all of the contaminated food out of it's bags, some of it we had to wash, and poor old Ainsley Harriet's soup had to go in the bin - I can eat most things but not "soup a la diesel"! Worst of all Sam's sleeping bag had gone into the bilge and got soggy - it is drying out now thank goodness, the wonders of man made fabrics and all that!

Sam took some video footage of me fiddling about on deck and pretending to know what I was doing for the archive which we can use later during the Vendee Globe, but we'll put it on the website I think, the waves were pretty impressive!

The low has quietened down now so we have increased sail again and are trundling on now toward home with only 1300 odd miles to go to the Scillies. I had hope to have had a knap, make some pasta for tea and then put up more sail, but the wind is switching off as we speak, and we will have to attend to boatspeed first.

It has been a busy and stressful day with our boat handling really being put to the test under those conditions - not what I had envisaged for "a nice leisurely downwind delivery trip"; that was how I sold it to Sam anyway.............

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