White Ocean Racing

Reports 15 - 17 February

15 February - Will the weather cooperate?.

Audio Clip courtesy Trigone/VendeeGlobe

17 February - Wayward winds and deaf ships.

Audio Clip courtesy Trigone/VendeeGlobe

17 February - Blog 27 - The brainless flying fish and spinnaker woes.

We are officially out of flying fish territory now, and the last occupants who had somewhat outstayed their welcome under the staysail deckbag have now been evicted! It is a bit of a relief actually; although they are a real triumph of the creature creation department, to be throwing them back many times per night when I should be sleeping is an activity that will not be missed. Even though the have mastery of two elements, someone forgot to install brains, which was a shame, but I reckon one had a crash helmet to protect what little brain it had - there is a small head shaped dent in the cockpit side which was not there before. At fourteen inches long for a big flying fish it is possible........

It is gradually getting cooler, and I have broken out socks and boots for the nightime, and for the first time today, during the day as well. It's nice that it is a bit cooler, we just need some wind to go with it now. At night all the stars look familiar again, and if I look behind me, almost due south, the star that flashes red, white and green is clearly visible a hands width above the horizon - if you don't believe me, find a dark place where there's no light pollution on a clear night and have a look, it is there flashing away!

I had a bit of a nightmare morning. After being up and down all night with fairly mild squalls, trimming to try to keep sailing deep to get north, (or that was how it started, with a course of twenty degrees, but before dawn my course was seventy degrees - straight back at the Azores again!) so I thought I'd get some weather and then gybe, but my e-mails had gone down; they would send but not recieve, which meant no weather information which would have been a real disaster. I had a ship coming straight at me at twenty knots who was not answering his VHF and I would not have shown up on his radar in the torrential rain, plus I was sitting waiting for a call from the press that just didnt happen. At that point I suddenly noticed we were going slow, and switched on the deck light to see my lovely new Toe in the Water spinnaker hanging against the windows having ripped from top to bottom. I think the rip stemmed from a small repair I had done in haste which may have washed off with all the rain but I didn't have time to inspect it, I just needed to get it down whilest I had all the bits. If you aren't quick about it they can go in the water, under the boat and round the keel or wrap around the rig, so I got it down and rapidly away below. Plus I couldn't gybe out of the way of the ship with that still up there, and he was by now at four miles with me only doing six knots. I called him again, luckily he answered, altered slightly and went round me. I haven't a clue what the bloke said, he was very foreign and sounded like he smoked a million fags a day, but at least he didn't squash me, so that was fine. Everything always happens at once!

I was upset about my spinnaker. I've blown a few up on this boat because I've had so many old ones, some came with the boat but the rest were donated by Dee and Alex. Normally you really know about it when they go; one minute you're barrelling along, then there's a bang and the boat pops up and you slow down, to the accompaniment of a noise like a roll of tissue paper rustling in the wind as the bits blow around like streamers. Now all I have left is an old Group 4 one left that Dee gave me. It's got to be nearly ten years old, and while it's not pretty it is built like a brick outhouse and will do the job - let's hope it's not a spinnaker finish or they won't know who I am!

With Dee safely in, we have, she promises, seen the last of her jokes. Some will say that mine were worse I'm sure, but they all gave us something to have a groan about! It is, however, pretty odd to have everyone else tied up whilst I'm still out here, but if the Azores Highs (multiple) stop messing about and let me through it won't be long and I'll be in too. I had a really strong feeling that I should have followed Marc Guillemot's track when I was at the point where I could have, but everything looked good for an easy crossing back then. Now I am older and wiser in the ways of the Azores High, the next time I shall listen to my little voices and never go near the Azores again. Ever. If the Vendee Globe was twice around then that would be fine so it's not the mileage, but pyschologically when you get near the finish, that and all it entails becomes the focus and you become ready to, and then really want to get in, and to to be messed around by the weather at the eleventh hour is always going to be hard. Give me a good honest low pressure any day.......

I've been thinking a lot about canting keels too, and the designs for the new boat. It's funny how you can throw a battery on any thirty year old JCB that has been sitting in a field and it will fire up and the bucket will go up and down without any trouble. Put that in a boat and it all seems to fall apart however, it should all work fine but never seems to....so soon hopefully I'll be on e-bay looking for a second hand digger to canibalise for my canting keel hydraulics!

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