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Date: 24 Oct 2009 14:44:41
Title: .and Another Non-Race Starts

Noon Position: 28:15.407N 016:15.45W

Date & Time: 24 October 2009 1315 UTC

 

Ahead of our departure today from Tenerife to Dakhla in Western Sahara, the skippers’ meeting yesterday evening was a much more informative affair than the last, as we got alternate French and English briefings. There was a real sense of excitement as we are today leaving Europe behind us for the last time and sailing into the very different world of Saharan Africa. The briefing said that we might come across “pirogues” – small boats – full of black African refugees trying to get to the Canaries. They might well be desperate with thirst and hunger. Leave some bread and water floating in a plastic bag for them to pick up, but do not let them get to your boat as they might try and board you. We are to call the coastguard with their position and the coastguard will come out to help them. Cocooned in our privileged world on our luxury yachts, it does no harm to be reminded of the desperate conditions in which so many of the world’s population live.

 

The rally organisers are taking the “This is rally – not a race” business far too seriously. At the meeting it was announced that there would not be a formal start today. Anybody was free to leave whenever they wished anytime after 1000. So no jockeying for position on the start line; no adrenalin rush as the countdown begins; no fist-in-the-air high-fiving as we sweep over the line in first place as the gun is fired. Spoilsports. So we had to engineer our own pursuit race. If you look at our position on the www.islesdusoleil.eu website you will see that we are at the back of the fleet. THIS IS DELIBERATE and only a temporary situation. We decided to leave almost last so we had a fleet to chase rather than the more boring option of starting early and leaving most of the boats behind us. So in the hour between the departure of the first boats and our departure, we made good use of our time by tucking into a large plateful of the finest Cumberland sausage, best Northumberland black pudding, thick rashers of bacon and fried eggs, all courtesy of Tom who brought them out yesterday. The smells wafting from our galley drove our fellow competitors mad.

 

Our course to Dakhla is 290 miles almost due south. The wind was forecast light from the NNE for most of the trip, but when we cleared the harbour wall, there was a brisk F6 northeasterly. Too much wind for the cruising chute at the moment so we are rolling along at 6.5 to 7 knots under yankee (like a very big jib) and full mainsail. When I say rolling, I mean it. The seas are much bigger than they were on our passage to Tenerife and we are having to stuff paper in between all the gin bottles to stop them from clinking together. It’s all frightfully inconvenient. And it’s beginning to hot up as well. Madeira and Tenerife have been a perfect 25 or 26 degrees (Celsius) but as we now head further south it is 29 degrees and rising. But, hey-ho, no complaints.

 

My doughty crew for this leg are Lawrence Wells and Tom Mallaburn. Tom arrived the day before yesterday and has been hard at it helping to prepare the boat for this leg. Lawrence, on the other hand, is in disgrace. Having sworn to be back on the boat by 1030 yesterday (from his champagne-swilling, lobster eating sojourn with, Carri, his good lady), he came swanning in at 4.30pm still inebriated from yet another excellent lunch. I spent most of last night grinding my teeth thinking of all the things that should have been done by now, but which haven’t. As I said to Lawrence, “Lawrence” I said “You have let me down; you have let the boat down - but most of all” I said in an inspired moment of originality “you have let yourself down”. Lawrence laughed like a drain. But he’s not laughing now as he has been detailed to clean my loo with his own toothbrush. Lax crew, tough skipper.

 

P.S. As I finish typing this, the wind has come further aft as forecast and we have hoisted the cruising chute. Now romping along at about 7.5 knots, and we are overtaking boats. Perfect.

 


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