This a Rally - NOT a Race
Position: 30° 44.6’N 016°25.4W
Date & time:
Distance covered since start at 1530 yesterday: 123 miles
At 1530 yesterday afternoon amidst the sound of horns, rocket flares being set off and lots of what we French call bonhomie, the rally fleet set off on our first leg from Madeira to Tenerife, 260 miles (about 2 days) away, due south. It had been impressed on us that “This is a rally, not a race”. Like hell it wasn’t a race. We were all jockeying for position on the start line as the countdown commenced and, as the starting horn sounded, Mina2’s highly-trained crew of Lawrence Wells and Richard Close-Smith leapt into action like coiled springs. The cruising chute (enormous highly coloured sail like a spinnaker) billowed out and we shot across the line in 4th place out of about 34 boats. So far, so good.
The wind had been forecast very light and from the
nor’northeast (from behind us) and for a while it looked alarmingly like I had
asked Richard to fly all the way out to
After a few hours sleep I came on deck this morning at
0730. The wind had picked up substantially. With every thread of the cruising
chute straining to its limits, we were thundering along at over eight knots. The
little pin pricks of navigation lights ahead of us last night had transformed in
the dawn light into sails – behind us. YES!! Good old Mina, we had caught the
bxxxxxxs !! It was
I’m not sure of our position in the fleet, but it is a lot better than it was. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology you can tell what we can only guess. All the yachts have been fitted with tracker devices and if you go onto the rally website on www.islesdusoleil.eu (or Google “Rallye des Isles du Soleil” if I’ve got it wrong) and click on one of the boxes on the left which says something like “See where the boats are” you will get a map with the positions of all the boats, updated every four hours. Incidentally, I’m told that there is also a link on the site of a clip of Lawrence and me being interviewed for Madeiran television.
Sailing in these waters is magical. Since we left Portugal just over a week ago, the wind has always been from our side or behind us, the water is flat (where the long Atlantic swell we experienced just off the coast of Portugal went to, I don’t know) the boat doesn’t tip and we are not being thrown around the saloon like pin-balls. Right now there is no moon, but the brilliance of the stars at night is breathtaking. As we head further and further south, the old familiar constellations dip lower towards the northern horizon, and hitherto unseen southern constellations appear for the first time. These “new” constellations will be our companions for the next few years. We will get to know them well as we learn the art of astro-navigation.
After a pre-prandial G&T, yesterday evening I cooked
chilli con carne which is the specialité du bateaux (you can see my French is
coming along in leaps and bounds).
And talking of French, the only people in the world to be worse than the British for learning foreign languages are the French, so three-quarters of the fleet are Frenchmen who speak no English and one quarter are Englishmen who speak no French. At certain times of the day, everybody tunes into a particular radio frequency on which we take it in turns to check in, hear any announcements and ask any questions. At yesterday evening’s net I wanted to ask a question which was beyond my limited French. When it was my turn, I asked the net controller “Parlez-vous anglais?” “Non” came the reply. And that was it! So much for English being the official lingua franca of the sea. What I do like about the French is their sense of priority. When each skipper was signing off from the radio net there was none of the formal, clipped “Roger, wilco, and standing by on channel One-Fiver. Mina2 out.” that you would get on a British run net. It was all “Bon soirée tous le monde et bon appetit!”
On the subject of bon appetit, we had a little excitement this morning. Richard cooked a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and toast and had just pulled it all together and put the plates on the table when the spinnaker sheet shackle detached itself and the cruising chute started flogging itself to death. (Landlubbers can miss the next bit – it’s going to get a little technical). Whilst trying to bring the lazy sheet round to the working side, that too came detached. Attempting to douse the spinnaker with the squeezer, the squeezer jammed, so we bore away to bring the chute under the lee of the main, did a conventional drop onto the foredeck, unjammed the squeezer, fed the chute back into it, reattached the sheets and hoisted again. It probably took about 15-20 minutes and we probably lost a mile which we will have to make up, but the important thing is that the oven which was caretaking our breakfast was still warm and once we were stomping along again, we enjoyed the breakfast all the more. I am blessed with a magnificent crew that deal with an interrupted breakfast just like any other major crisis.
P.S. Richard’s poetic bon mot (there we go again – I simply can’t stop the French from gushing out):
“The horizon behind us is positively pock-marked with sails, like the skin of a greasy adolescent!”
“Looking forwards, I feel like
Bernard Moitessier, eat your heart out.