Things could have started off
better. A couple of hours into our passage, we were running with a stiff breeze
behind us and the mainsail secured outboard with a preventer. I was at the helm.
After all the preparations, this was it. We were on our way. My joy was
inexpressible. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. However, a momentary lapse
of concentration later and I inadvertently gybed the main and we now have a
couple of bent stanchions. Although
the damage is not material to speed or safety, it was a timely reminder of the
need to be alert, and mindful of the power of this boat.
Although we are constantly
reminded that this is a rally – not a race, I have to admit (along with I
suspect almost all the other skippers) that the competitive element really adds
spice to what is already a wonderful experience. We all receive daily emails
from the organisers of each boats position, and there is a VHF radio net twice a
day where all boats which are in range report their positions. By this morning
we seemed to be reasonably placed in our group and hopefully we will be hauling
in some of the smaller boats in the other two groups which left before us.
But more important than one’s
position relative to other boats is one’s position within one’s own boat. A
“pokey little boat” as someone once described Mina2 is an unforgiving
environment in which inter-personal tensions can build and ferment leading to an
unhappy ship and a potentially dangerous one as well. That is why the selection
and training of a crew prior to a transoceanic passage is critical to the
success of the venture. A complicated and long drawn-out process of psychometric
testing is required to ensure compatibility of personalities. Then there are the
weeks of crew training, bonding weekends, planning summit meetings and so on.
Every detail of life on board needs to be discussed, analysed and agreed upon at
the outset. So some people say. Poppycock. That’s what I say. If they can mix
the skipper an extra strong gin and tonic and wash up my empty glasses, they’re
Or at least that’s what I used to
say. Yesterday afternoon we had an incident. We had been belting along under a
sunny sky with the cruising chute billowing before us. The wind was picking up
and, not wanting to shred the sail again so soon into the race rally, we
decided to take it down. We were dropping acres of sail onto the deck, all of us
pulling like mad to stop it from going overboard. I was momentarily enveloped in
sail cloth as it was coming down when something smashed into my cheekbone.
Stunned I shook myself out of the sailcloth to find standing beside me Neil, who
was rubbing his fist with a grin on his face. He later claimed that it was a
complete accident, but I overheard him later telling Peter that he had been
dying to do that for a long time, but it was quite tricky because as I was
covered by the cruising chute he had to have three goes before he made contact.
So it’s mutiny again. Perhaps the psychometric testing would have revealed
Neil’s psychopathic tendencies. Mind you, I should have guessed as much. He is a
Geordie after all.
In the same conversation between
Peter and Neil, I overheard Peter saying “You should’ve given me warning you
were going to hit him in the face.I could’ve followed up with a winch handle…” . So that’s the thanks I get
for all those year’s of personal sacrifice, rationing my gin for the sake of his
The beating up incident was
followed shortly after by my standing by the sink in the galley asking why no
one had yet washed up my empty glasses, when Venetia
sitting above me in the cockpit gave every impression of hurling a full glass of
fruit juice at my head. Again, apparently, it was an “accident”.
Only Snoopy is showing me the
respect I deserve. Snoopy is now very old and much loved, if a little
threadbare. In those heady carefree days before the children arrived, Snoopy
travelled all over the world with the Absent Downstairs Skipper and me. He
arrived in Pete’s luggage and narrowly missed being slit from groin to neck by
the drugs officers at Sal airport. Snoopy is now the ship’s mascot for the
Transatlantic crossing and sits faithfully in the tray in front of the nav table
looking admiringly at me whilst I sit doing skipperly