Soup, stars and superstars

Ed Dolman
Sat 5 Dec 2009 20:01
Good Afternoon Readers,
"Scotty" Robins was clearly not a happy man; pacing up and down the full length of the cockpit (all of 2 metres), he was heard muttering, "This is not fast enough, I'm not happy when we're not sailing fast enough". The rest of the crew knew full well what was in store. "Ropeman" Pete emerged from the galley to announce that lunch was ready, but could see from the look on Scotty's face that work would be required at the pointy end of the boat before the crew would be allowed to tuck into his delicious spicy fish soup served with freshly baked crusty granary bread ( the soup being later described by Captain Dorado as "like a delicious bouillabaise"). But back to the story. Out came the asymmetric, up it went, and off Marinara went at 7.5 - 8 knots. And on, and on! There was no let up as Scotty drove the crew on. The Captain and Tony thought it was suspicious when, come nightfall, Scotty announced that he was "going below", leaving the two of them scooting along with the asymmetric still flying. They barely had time to admire the beautiful starlit evening (one of the best because we had two hours of sailing before the moon came up in spectacular fashion behind the boat). All was relatively quiet with good progress being made until Pete came on watch. At 0220, the wind started to get up and Pete enjoyed half an hour of winds up to 25 knots with the boat zooming along at up to 10 knots. Everything had quietened down when Tony "Clippers" came on watch at 0300 and he and Pete spent a pleasant hour having one of their regular intellectual conversations (see earlier blog entry), before Pete retired to bed leaving Tony on his hour of solo watchkeeping (as previously mentioned, the watch system is excruciatingly complicated but involves each crew member doing one hour on his own during each watch). Now, Clippers is a novice in the spinnaker department and it has to be said that he was a little apprehensive about being left on his own in the dark ( oh, come on Tony, the moon was up!) in custody and control of a gigantic kite (Scotty maintains that it's not that big, really). However, all was going well for the first forty minutes and Tony was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. Only twenty minutes to go and the next crew member would be joining him on watch. A very large and very dark cloud was approaching the boat from astern. As expected, the wind was building, although the sea was still relatively smooth, as it had been all night. Suddenly, there was a loud whip-like crack as the spinnaker filled and Marinara excitedly galloped off at over 9 knots. 0530 and the next watchkeeper had still not appeared, despite Tony's frantic hammering on the cabin roof with a plastic mug!  Some time later, with Marinara still tearing along and with Tony having a great time, Captain Dorado and Dave appeared at the top of the companionway. Dave took a look upwards (at the spinnaker) and one backwards (at more fast-approaching dark clouds) and announced, laconically, that "The sail's a bit maxed out at this speed", whereupon it came down, much to Tony's disappointment, to be replaced with our favourite poled out genoa. As usual, Dave had made the right call (a) because within half an hour we were hit by another squall during which we got very wet, very quickly; (b) it transpired that the spinnaker halyard had been almost worn through by all the excitement; and (c) we were still doing 8 knots. The result of our efforts was a very fast 24 hour run of 165 miles (this can, of course now be disclosed because the deadline for competition entries has passed (even for under 16's)). At the time of writing we are still making over 7.5 knots and have 580 miles to run to St. Lucia.
One of our readers (having read other boats' blogs with tales of damage) has asked whether we have broken anything so far during the trip. Without wishing to tempt fate, the only wear and tear to date has been one reefing line, the sheath of which parted, and which was easy to replace and the halyard mentioned above (also easy to repair). This is largely due to the daily checks and maintenance carried out and small but important things such as adjusting halyard and sheet tension slightly so that the same parts of the lines are not in blocks/sheaves all the time. Captain Dorado's response to the reader's question was "Only the spirit of our competitors in our class as Marinara pulls further and further ahead of them!"  However, we are not complacent and shall continue to give of our best until we reach St Lucia.
The wildlife count remains disappointingly low, as does the fish catch. We did see a large bird yesterday some 750 miles offshore; Tony thinks it was a frigate bird.
A final aside. It is proving incredibly difficult here in the Atlantic to get the full Tiger Woods story and all we are being fed are small snippets. Is there something you do not wish us to know? Come on, readers, we are all grown men and deserve to be told the "truth".
More from us in due course. Best wishes to you all. 05/12/09