Frustrations and Excitements

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 25 Oct 2009 12:16

Noon Position: 25:01.87N 016:19.67W

Date & Time: 25 October 2009 1205 UTC

Distance Run in last 24 hrs: 132 nautical miles


Things got better and better, the wind increased to 25 knots and, still with the cruising chute up, we were screaming along – sometimes at speeds in excess of 9 knots. We were well to the west of most of the fleet (in order to get a good angle on the wind as we approached Dakhla) so we could see very few boats, but through analysing radio contacts between boats throughout the afternoon we realised that we had shot right the way through the fleet and were now about 15-20 miles ahead of most of the competition. By the evening, we were delighted to discover that we were also within spitting distance of Dieter in the amazing “Flying Kefi”. His boat is a radical ultra-lightweight trimaran capable of more than 17 knots (if we touch 10 knots, it is a real red letter day). I had assumed that he would by now have had a clear lead of about 25 miles, but we could actually see him only just ahead of us – even though he had left the marina a full hour before us. Results like this can only be achieved if you are blessed with a superb boat and a superb crew (Lawrence has now been forgiven – well, almost).  Morale was as high as our kite (slang for spinnaker) ……. until …..


In the early hours of the morning, the wind died to no more than a zephyr, the boat rolled around in the slight swell, the sails idly slatting. Boat speed reduced - 5 knots, 4 knots, 3 … 2 … 1 knot. The wind was also shifting around all over the place. The concentration required to get the boat moving at all was immense. At one point we were actually heading due west (destination sou’southeast). But to say we were then actually sailing away from our destination would have been technically incorrect as our boat speed indicator was showing 0.0 knots. We were at a complete standstill. Meanwhile dots of light passed us like a kaleidoscope, as engines were turned on in the calm and the fleet motored back past us.


On Mina2 there was no question of “peeling to the Perkins”. Motoring was for losers. So for the best part of six hours we grafted, pulling every trick out of the book to simply keep the boat moving at all. I’m not sure how many other boats were stubborn enough and mad enough to stick out the frustrating conditions without succumbing to metal-power, but my guess is that there are only a handful of us. Dieter in “Flying Kefi” is certainly one, not least because his boat is so weight-sensitive that he only carries a cupful of diesel for emergencies. Then there is Jean and Sybille on “Havanita” courageously embarking on this adventure on a (only slightly) converted racing boat with their four small children. Jean is a mentalist. He has completed two Mini-Transats which is a semi-professional single-handed race across the Atlantic on saucer-shaped racing boats about the size of a dinghy.


Just before the wind died away last night, we had a bit of an excitement. Earlier in the day, I had responded to a call from the Tenerife Coastguard who were concerned to see that an entire fleet of yachts was sailing through a narrow shipping lane between Tenerife and Gran Canaria with a couple of big ships scheduled to slice there way through in the next half hour. I was asked to ensure that all the yachts were made aware of this, which I did. Tenerife Coastguard now had my name.


At 2100 hours I was surprised to hear the Coastguard calling Mina2 on the emergency channel. Could I confirm whether or not a yacht called Tengivag was one of our group. I confirmed that it was indeed. Tengivag, I was told, had transmitted an automated emergency call on VHF radio but was not responding to calls to them by the Coastguard. Could we find out if she had been in contact with any of the other boats and/or when she had last been seen? I was able to give the Coastguard Tengivag’s Iridium satellite phone number so they could try that. Meanwhile, I embarked on a series of calls to other rally boats, who relayed messages and information back and forth across the fleet which I then relayed on to the Coastguard. The position transponders that we carry came in useful. “Vita”, one of the British boats, has a very sophisticated bit of communication equipment which effectively gives him the capability to access the internet from anywhere in the world. He looked up the website and found out the last position of Tengivag. I was just about to relay this to the Coastguard when they contacted me with the welcome news that they had at last been able to get Tengivag to answer their persistently ringing sat phone, and that they were all OK. Apparently their VHF radio had misfunctioned and whilst they could receive they were unable to transmit (apart from false emergency calls?!). Anyway, panic over. (Afterwards, Tom asked me “So what does the ring tone of the satellite phone sound like?” “I don’t know” I said “I don’t know anyone rich enough to have called me!”)


Just before dawn the wind returned, thank the Lord. Not a lot of it but enough to get Mina2 to pick up her skirts and trot along at a respectable 5 knots or so. And sufficient wind to shame the motorists into switching off and start sailing again. It’s a bit like the re-start of a Grand Prix after the safety car has been out – the race begins all over again but on this occasion we start once more at the back of the grid.