Last Push into St Lucia

Graham Deegan
Tue 8 Dec 2009 01:18
Dear All
We have learned a bit more about the ocean environment.... only scratching the surface really, but we have come to expect quite large wind changes near to clouds. some smaller ones have a greater effect than expected, and some larger ones can be pussy-cats. ....and clouds are only the top of activity that is going on all the time at lower levels that may or may not result in a cloud. We are in effect sailing through a slowly bubbling cauldron of moisture evaporating from the ocean. Wind shifts are usually in the region of 5 - 10 deg, but we have witnessed a shift of 30 deg. Shifts on the Port gybe are usually headders which are good for VMG. Shifts on Starboard gybe are usually the reverse. ....But there were many exceptions. Clouds can build into squalls in minutes, and dissipate equally quickly. With the right spinnaker up, Akarana could cope with the squalls and blasted downwind in a very stable condition. Usual wind speeds were clocked at 25 knots, occasionally 28 kts and once at 30 kts. THere were days of very little activity, and days with constant activity. WE could all appreciate the sense of the cosy cruising rigs, but we also knew that we were much faster with a spinnaker.
We are in St Lucia now, but the last 2 days have been hard work in trying to improve Akarana's position in the ARC "Rallye". The Tucanon analysis is a double edged sword. Tucanon is a boat in the Rallye that is analysing and predicting the final positions on handicap. Knowing that we were doing reasonably well acted as a spur to improve our position. The Nipper was clearly "wanting" a result spurred on by the Preacher ministering to him thoughts of glory, ...ably supported by Sparks who relished any activity for any reason or none. Sail changes and gybes with constant monitoring of position, wind predictions and route changes. No time to relax. The trade winds were in good form with the above mentioned variations thrown in to confound us.
As if to give us a last blast, the ocean sent us a heavy squall with very varying winds only hours before dawn and finishing in St Lucia this morning.... Monday Dec 7th. We were about to gybe when this squall hit us and caused us to revert to the previous trim. It was a fast and white knuckle ride for several minutes. With this squall out of the way we were rounding the northern tip of St Lucia and finishing in a good breeze in Rodney Bay.
I think we finished at 06:40 .....19th over the water, and we are hopeful of a second place on handicap.

Arrival in St Lucia saw the whole crew indulging in champagne & rum... for breakfast. Kimmy Rowlandson and Fabienne Schirmer arrived at the boat to join in the celebrations. A slapup lunch, hosted by the Preacher at the Spinnaker Beach Restaurant followed by a swim left us all longing for our bunks.....

I am falling asleep as I write. The Prof.