18th June 2008 - Leg 5 Peniche to Oerias (and Rodney's laundry adventure)

Bali Hai
Neal Stow
Wed 18 Jun 2008 23:39
The best day's sail so far.  Probably helped by the fact that we all had an early night the evening before.  It was a sunny morning and a nice 10 knot breeze from the north.  The start line was east west and so we thought that we would try and show all these experienced yachty people what a bunch of relative novices on Bali Hai could do.
The cruising chute has always been a bit of a challenge for us.  It might be beautiful but it is very large and tends to get wrapped around things very easily.  Rodney from Bouzouki had given some on advice on how to fly it using the spinnaker pole, even though the pole was not fully rigged with a downhaul to stabilise it.  This is what he was doing with his chute and racing away from the rest of the fleet.  However, our spinnaker pole is enormous and we had not even had the courage to take the thing down from its home on the mast, let alone try to attach it to a sail! 
Rob from Serafina had suggested flying the cruising chute without the mainsail up as this sail tends to block the wind.  This seemed simpler and so we thought we would give it a go.  And not once we were underway - we were going to do it on the start line - in amongst all the other boats.  After some very worrying moments during the countdown we were perfectly placed at the start (by some miracle!) and went over the line with Bouzouki - who were also employing the same high risk strategy.  For a time we managed to keep up with Bouzouki but as the winds shifted around our cruising chute was waving around like an enormous flag and felt incredibly unstable. 
Bouzouki was slowly pulling away and we decided that the only way we had a chance of catching them was to try Rodney's method of using the pole.  So we gave it a go.  Amazingly it worked really well, despite never having used the pole before, the boys managed to rig the sail beautifully.  The only trouble was that during the time it took to set it up we were bobbing around with no sails up.  Not only did Bouzouki pull further away but the rest of the fleet caught up.
With the new sail arrangement we could certainly keep pace with Bouzouki and we were perhaps catching them slightly.  But then we had to gybe and move the sail across to the other side of the boat.  Another challenging manoeuvre.  Rodney had told me it took them 15 minutes the first time he tried it.  He timed us and reported back that it was 7.5 minutes!  On the new tack we were with the waves and now flying and at one point reached 10.4 knots.  Unfortunately, the effect of the waves on the previous tack must have been even greater on Bouzouki as they were now going much faster and pulling away.
As we approached the headland into the river Tejo, we converged on Blonde Moment and Arwen who had taken the direct route along the coast.  Blonde Moment was flying a parasail and could go directly downwind.  Arwen, the only cruiser racer in the fleet and set up for racing, was easily keeping up with the larger cruisers despite only using their genoa.  Arwen was in second place and we had to give way to Blonde Moment.  Sea Lion was further back but gaining ground with their proper spinnaker. 
As we rounded the headland towards Lisbon the wind picked up to 25 to 30 knots of winds and we shot past Blonde Moment and then Arwen.  We managed to drop the chute and raise the headsail without too much trouble.  As we headed up river the wind began to drop and up went the chute again.  Bouzouki had not done this and we thought we may be able to reduce the time differential to beat them on handicap but then as the wind moved round and strengthened it became impossible to control the chute and sail on course.  Although we did cross the line second, Arwen was only two minutes behind.  Blonde Moment and Sea Lion came across the line several minutes later but with their very favourable handicaps there is little chance of us beating them.
So, although it was disappointing from the results point of view it was a cracking day's sail.  A feeling shared by everyone as we sat on Sea Lion for a post sail drink.  Strangely, after only one beer, Rodney disappeared with a bottle of Persil in his hand.  After he had left there was a bit of grumbling that Rod was not being very sociable but John revealed that he had good reason to leave.  Rod's wife is joining him in Oeiras land and apparently when she quizzed him on the phone about whether he had washed his bed linen since leaving Plymouth, he had answered yes!
If Rod's wife is reading this, she will be pleased to know that justice was soon forthcoming.  We met Jackie from Blonde Moment at dinner and she told how she had gone to inspect the laundry room only to find that Rod had been locked inside for 40 minutes.  He had gone to wash his sheets and shut the door not realising that once closed it cannot be opened from the inside.