Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sat 31 Oct 2009 14:44



Noon Position: 22:00.84N 017:47.77W

Distance run since start (1515 UTC 30 Oct): 146 miles

Date: 31 October 2009


We were scheduled to leave Dakhla for Dakar in Senegal at 1600. There were still a few things to be done before we left, like putting the generator back together again (which has been playing up yet again). We returned to the hotel at 1430 having done our shopping to be told that the plans had been changed and we were now to leave at 1500 – in half an hour. We sprinted back to the dinghy and shot back to the boat to get everything ready for our 4-day 600-mile passage. Most of the boats (who had had rather more notice than us) got away at the allotted time. We followed behind the pack half an hour later, about 3 miles behind the leaders. The course to Dakar follows the coast southsou’east, round a bulge in the coast and then due south down to the Dakar peninsula. The lat / long of the anchorage in Dakar is 14° 39.85N 17° 25.8W. My strategy was to get well offshore - 50 or 60 miles or so – pick up a south-going 1-knot current and getting a better angle on the wind during the passage. The wind is currently due to fade away to almost nothing on Monday as a small depression passes over Dakar.


Everything was going to plan, we were tearing along under the cruising chute at over 9 knots. We had participated for the first time on a radio net that we had informally set up for the English speaking boats and I got proof-positive that my windspeed indicator over-reads significantly. In these steady trade winds, everyone was reporting wind speed of about 17 knots and I was reading 24 knots. During the evening we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. We are now in the tropics!! After dark (well, not exactly dark, as we have a nearly full moon at the moment which is so bright you can almost read by it) we spotted a stern light flickering on the water a mile ahead. Within an hour we powered straight past “Auhema” a Beneteau 50 (longer, lighter and theoretically faster than us) like she was tied up to a dock. Brilliant! This was the life!


A little later Tom said “Isn’t the wind a little strong for the cruising chute now?” “I think you’ll find I know what I’m doing” I snapped, and then I went on to explain that the top apparent speed for the cruising chute was 18 knots and I knew now that the windspeed indicator was over-reading, so I felt comfortable keeping the chute up with the 22 knots the windspeed was showing.


At 0100 I went down below for a well-earned sleep. At 0110 Tom called out “Skipper – it’s gone – it’s gone!”. I leapt up on deck thinking “Oh no, he’s accidentally let the sheet (rope that holds the sail) go. More time on the naughty chair for Tom then.” Instead I came on deck to total chaos. The chute was in the water, completely ripped to shreds and the luff tapes were flogging around getting entangled in the rigging. The most important thing was to get the sail back on board before it went under the boat and wrapped itself around the keel or, worse still, the rudder. Snapping into Capt Aubrey mode I cried out “ALL HANDS – ALL HANDS ON DECK”. It would have been much easier to have called down “Lawrence, dear, would you be kind enough to pop up on deck and give us a hand please?” but it wouldn’t have had such dramatic effect. Helped by the bright moonlight and despite the boat rolling wildly from side to side, we quite quickly brought the shredded sail on board, lowered the rest of the apparatus from the top of the mast and stuffed it all into the forward deck locker. We quickly rigged the spinnaker pole and goose-winged the yankee. But it was not the same. The cruising chute in these conditions was our turbo-charger. We had lost a knot and a half of speed. We were no longer competitive. Rather than being “the one to beat” we had now joined the ranks of the also-rans – and all because I kept the chute up too long.  Tom, once again, had been right, and the skipper had, once again, been found wanting in his judgement. We were gutted. As Tom put it as diplomatically as a Geordie can “You have let us down; you have let the boat down but most of all Tim” he finished with a clichéd flourish “you have let yourself down”. Where he had got that _expression_ from, goodness only knows. But he was right. Time for the skipper himself to sit on the naughty chair. I only hope I can find a sailmaker in Dakar. Meanwhile we limp on under reduced sail, if not at the back of the fleet certainly in the process of being overtaken by most of it. We have effectively retired from the race and joined the ranks of the cruising classes. We’ll probably be turning our engine on next!! Our hopes and dreams are, like our cruising chute, in tatters.


One of the problems with crack racing crew like Lawrence and Tom is that they are hard men driven by the need to win, Win, WIN! When we were at the head of the fleet they were happy. But when they are not, they turn mean and ugly. Last night when I was on watch after the “incident” I heard the two of them muttering mutinously down below. By the time I had got down the companionway they had scuttled back to their pits and were pretending to sleep. I wasn’t fooled. Oh, no. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me. I need to stamp my authority on them and stamp hard. So I’ve decided that my mean, ugly revolting crew will not get any biscuits at tea-time today. That’ll show them who’s boss.