We set off from Queenborough fairly early in the morning – it was nowhere
near Southend Pier. We motored to the sea, and got there at about 11.00am
– not really enough time to practice much for the 12.30 start. There were
people cheering and clapping on the pier, but it was very difficult to see
them as it was absolutely tipping it down. Typical British Bank Holiday
weather. We to’d and fro’d a couple of times, and everyone was allocated a
starting position. With twenty two on the boat, and everyone on deck for
the race start, it was very crowded. My job was to set the timer when the ten minute call came through, and to call out the minutes and then the thirty seconds down to the gun. Out of the way of everyone else – I was happy with my job!
The gun went off, and we were one of the first bunch over the line. We had
a spinnaker up and ready to pop just as we went over the line, so everything looked good. Famous last words.
A few hundred yards from the start the wind got up, which actually was then
gusting too high for the size of spinnaker that we had up. What happened
next could only be classified as carnage! We tried to drop the spinnaker,
and everything seemed to go wrong. One of the ropes whipped and broke one
of the guard rails at the back – not going near there then! The spinnaker
sheet then ripped most of the way from top to bottom. Not good! This had
not happened on any of the training weeks – how come it happens on the
race? Wendy was almost horse after ten minutes or so –
nobody seemed to be in unison!
We got the spinnaker downstairs, and got a smaller one up to launch. All
was going very well for a few minutes, until the halyard that was holding
the spinnaker up snapped. That one that went into the water, and ripped as
well. Everyone was stunned at this point – how could things be so bad?
We got both the spinnakers down, and the industrial sewing machine that had
been stowed on board (and Emily and Craig suitably trained on) came out for
the next three days. We now had slipped to virtually last place, and could
only watch the leaders sailing away in the distance. There were a couple
of boats close to us – and we saw two more spinnakers ripping. Seems a bit
fishy to me!
We were split into two watches at this point, so half went to sleep,
feeling a bit dejected. Technical issue – the person I was hot bunking
with was on my watch! I bagged the bunk (it was nick named the coffin
bunk, as it is quite small and close to the floor – suits me!) Marc was
sleeping above me, or not as the case may be! My snoring kept him awake
all night. He had recorded it and sent it to a friend in Australia. When
he said it had gone viral I hoped he was only joking! I, with my beautiful
Ocean Sleeping Bag and goose down pillow slept like a log – no change there
We made up some ground overnight, although we were only around eight.
Better than last! Things were not going too bad now. Above deck that is.
For a small boat, there were a lot of things being lost – like 10kg of
carrots. They came on board – they had to be somewhere. I am sure there
will be a system eventually!
Emilia is the youngest on board at just eighteen, and this is the first
time that she had left home. She was feeling fairly sea sick and homesick.
Tom had also gone down with the sea sickness bug, but, touch wood, so far
so good for me.
The sun was lovely the next day, and it was fairly calm waters. We seemed
to be getting used to the boat and how it works – to a point that is! The
food seems to be going down well with everyone – and most of it isn’t being
One little issue that we had was the fridge/freezer that I had bought is either a fridge or a freezer, not both. I had planned to freeze the ice blocks to keep the “eskies” cold (Australian word for cool boxes – the boat is full of them). Australians that is, not eskies!
On night watch, we saw the moon rise – it was like a huge yellow balloon
hanging off the back of the boat. And then we had a pod of dolphins
swimming alongside us for half an hour or so. And we were only off the
coast of France!
We were off the coast of France for some time. I could see Brest
Lighthouse when I went to bed – unfortunately it was still there when I got
up again! The wind had dropped, and we had actually gone backwards. This
is not getting us to the front of the fleet. We were in a group of about
seven boats that had got stuck in this no wind pocket, but the front boats
had already gone, bugger!
It is still a long way to Rio!
My hair at this point in time feels like a mess – I’m sure it is, but as
there is no mirror on board I am the only one that can’t see it. My wet
wipe showers seem to be working, but as it is only day four out of about
thirty there is a long way to go!