on 2 December
The last 24 hours have all been about sailing fast with full main and our largest spinnaker, egged on by the news from Ground Control that we had now risen to 5th place with the second longest daily run (by 1 mile) in our class, and not too far from the leading pack. The weather forecast had predicted that the wind would increase to 23 knots and come round to the east, and that is exactly what we experienced yesterday afternoon after we had finished our hot dog lunch.
We judged it prudent to drop the kite momentarily in order to check the condition of the halyard. Ron and Pete Lanoe on the foredeck, Pete Howe on the wheel, Mik and Pete Norey on the winches. The asymmetric kite is recovered through the forward hatch by the foredeck crew by pulling on a recovery line attached to the tack (leading corner) of the sail. For safety, the other end of the recovery line is attached to the base of the mast in the forward heads. Anyway, the initial stage of recovery involves releasing the tack line, which we did when there was still too much pressure on the sail, and as a result the tack of the sail shot up, pulling the recovery line so taut that it audibly pulled the base of the mast up against its stops. Nobody was injured, but it was a salutary lesson of the forces and loads involved in these operations at such wind strengths, and we talked through our technique as a matter of urgency.The re-hoist was straightforward.
We took the opportunity to have a celebratory drink at 5.00 pm as distance to go dropped below 2000 miles, followed by an excellent Pasta Bolognese prepared by Ron.
Then began the most exhilirating, yet safe, 'yi-hi' night sail that any of us have ever had. Carrying full main and our largest serviceable kite we achieved boat speeds of 10 knots as a matter of course, regularly in the low teens, and peaking at 15.8. The sky was clear and the wind held up a consistent 25 knots all night. Needless to say none of us got much sleep as the boat lurched from one wave top to the next. We nearly broached once, and Pete Lanoe was so busy controlling the wheel that he didn't note the wind nor boat speeds.
As dawn broke, which happened at 8.30 in this lat/long, we eagerly examined the rig and sails for signs of damage from the nights excesses. Mik spied a small hole in the kite next to a previous repair patch. Since the large kite was becoming very tiring to handle, we decided to replace it with the smaller 1.5 oz one. This time the drop and hoist went well, and there were smiles all round from five very tired crew. Mik repaired the sail and re-packed it for later use, for we were still charging along at 9 knots with a fighting chance of logging a 200 mile daily run.
By 11.00 wind was up to 25 knots gusting 30. We had broached twice and wrapped twice. Helmsman shall remain nameless. We decided at 12.00 that we were pushing our luck in waves that were now mounting to 15 -20 ft, so woke the foredeck crew from their well-earned slumbers, and executed a dry drop, rolled out the No.1 Genoa and popped a can of beer each to celebrate a noon to noon log run of 201 miles.