White Ocean Racing

Reports 9 January

Video - The Eigion Beam gooseneck repair.
Filmed by Steve in mid Pacific

9 January - Race Status.

Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) collided with a whale. Cracks appeared at the foot of the mast and around the keel box. In second place, 178 miles from the leader, Roland Jourdain was the only one left with a real hope of challenging the leader, Michel Desjoyeaux. The duel took place in the climb back up the South Atlantic, but from a distance, in spite of the repairs, which appeared to be satisfactory initially, Roland continued racing. Steve is still 9th out of 12.

9 January - The wind returns and the jobs are done.

Audio Clip courtesy Trigone/VendeeGlobe

9 January - Blog 18 - The Eigion Beam and five trips up the mast.

It was a great start to the day - a bit of steady breeze at last, all six knots of it! Six knots of breeze, six knots of boatspeed on a reach. I cannot describe to you what a pleasure it was to hear the hiss of the water going past the hull again as I lay in bed, it seemed an age since I had heard it last. At least the calm conditions have given me chance to complete the repairs; the gooseneck is now well and truly held in place with a fairly serious piece of composite engineering that has been christened "The Eigion Beam", after Patrick the rigger's company (it was Patrick's idea!) and some fairly serious dyneema lashing wound bar tight with a couple of Spanish windlasses below decks to two strong points on the keel. All the nasty cracking noises have stopped now, and I have a great deal of confidence in the repair. The generator is lashed down to some carbon dowels fitted to the bearers, as one of the mounts had ripped it's bolts out and another had just sheered. That isn't going anywhere now either!

I had a keel moment too - down the side of the empty fuel tank on the starboard side, I caught sight of a dirty great bolt, and had a horrible thought that it must have been one of the draw bolts that go through the keel foil and it's socket inside the boat. After what happened to Jean I am a bit sensitive about anything like that, as I suspect all of us left out here are. In the end I couldn't stand it any more, and I removed the tank and had a look - everything was fine, I think someone had just dropped a load of bolts down the side during the refit - pannick over - phew!

As I write we are finally (touch wood!) escaping the clutches of the world's biggest high pressure - the breeze is now steady at around fourteen knots and the sun has set leaving a bright full moon showing clear skies and glistening on a calm sea with a gentle swell. I will sleep tonight mind you, I have been running around like a headless chicken since sunrise! When the sun came up and the breeze became steady, eventually it became spinnaker time. I got everything rigged and went for a hoist, but I could feel bumps as I pulled on the halliard - I thought I had damaged the top block, so down it came, and up I went instead! It is the one thing I don't like doing alone, but boy do you get a kick out of getting down on deck again afterwards! With a crew it's fun to go flying up and escape them all in complete safety - it is always so quiet up there, and from a tall mast you can see the curvature of the earth. I was not looking today though; the breeze had come up and the boat was pitching and as I clung on for dear life like some sort of pole dancing koala I really began to wish I had worn my crash helmet! All was OK up there, I just think everything had got dry, but on the way up I saw that where we had been sailing with gennaker and staysail, when we only use very little halliard tension, the halliard block had twisted and gradually sawn through the inner forestay! It is about seventy five percent through, so it was a very near thing indeed. So the rest of the day comprised four trips up to the second set of spreaders as we sailed along with full main and "Toe in the Water" kite, as I lashed up a second block to put up a second halliard, then used what was the staysail halliard as a stay and lashed it's two parts and the old stay all together, and knotted and lashed the bitter end at the mast base with a couple of tons of tension! It won't break now, and luckily the staysail hanks are velcro and on the generous side, so they still go up and down around three sixteen millimetre pieces of string!

My arms and legs are like lead after all that I must admit, and my elbow feels like it has been injected with grit, but it will be OK tomorrow. I am going to have some supper now, and try not to do what I did last night - make my banana and apple compote with salt water - I used the wrong tap, I was tired! It took me a few mouthfulls to cotten on the the fact that it had salt in it, and shame on me, I thought all that night and until the following day that it had occured when it was made, then the penny dropped, it was my fault!

All in all, it has been a good few days - the boat is good to go again with all the repairs that I know of finished, we are moving again, and I am learning a bit of patience! At least I can start and look at the rankings again, I haven't dared over the past few days. I got some good film of my albatross with a birth mark too; even in five knots of breeze he didn't need to flap. He wasn't going fast as usual though, so I caught him nice and clearly - he didn't hang around for long, they like a bit more breeze I think, he just came to check up on me, lapped the boat a few times taking long enough for me to do my filming and then was gone. Now we have wind he'll be back tomorrow, and so will we be, back after the boats in front once again.

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