Day 13: The Final Day - And The Race is Back ON!!

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Tue 15 Dec 2009 15:14

Noon Position:  12:46S 034:55W

Noon to Noon Run:   163 miles

Date:  15 December 2009


Having started right at the back of the fleet, we have over the last two weeks been slowly but surely making our way towards the front. We are now only 65 miles, about 9 hours, away from our destination – the harbour entrance at Salvador in Brazil. This is the same distance as going across the English Channel from the Solent to Cherbourg. Considered quite a long passage for weekend sailors, for ocean voyagers as we have now become, it is nothing: the full stop at the end of the chapter. Venetia has been tidying the boat in preparation for our arrival – that’s how close we are.


It’s a big ocean and you can only see another yacht if it’s less than about 8 miles away. In the last two weeks we have seen just one other yacht – “Cigale” – when we overtook her about four days ago. But as we all head for the “finishing line” – the harbour entrance in Salvador -  so we all converge.


We do know the rough positions of the other yachts from the daily emails we receive from the rally organisers. We know that “Suzie Too”, who left Mindelo 2 or 3 hours before us, was about 10 miles ahead of us and is likely to be travelling at the same sort of speed. There were two other yachts “Fidelio” and “Carati” who had left a day before us but which were sufficiently close to us now to be targets.


So it was with some excitement that we spotted a light shortly before dawn in front of us – and we were closing it fast. After half an hour it became clear that it was coming in the opposite direction. Not one of ours. Blast.


Dawn arrives. We can see a sail on our starboard beam. Take a bearing. Then we see another sail further away. By taking compass bearings over a period of time you can tell whether you are overtaking them or the other way round. We were overtaking one quite quickly, the other very slowly.


The VHF radio crackles into life.

“This is “Havanita” calling all Rally yachts. Does any one hear me?”

It is Jean, veteran single-handed Transatlantic sailor on his very fast converted racing boat with his wife and four young children. A big surprise. We passed Jean days ago. He shouldn’t be within VHF range.

“Havanita, this is Mina2” We have a chat but we are only interested in each others positions. I give mine first and tell him we are sailing at 7.5 knots.

“Good”, he says. “Then we will beat you in”.

What?! He says he’s been screaming along under spinnaker for the last three days and making his way back through the fleet. He’s only ten miles behind us and he’s doing 8.5 to 9 knots. Yes, at that rate he will beat us. The radio conversation suddenly shortens. It’s agreed that the first boat in provides the Caipirinhas for the loser.


“Let’s get the cruising chute up”

“Isn’t there too much wind, skipper?”

“Just get it up - now. We have a race on – and right now we’re losing it”

There’s no time to lose. After two weeks of hard training, the boys are fast. Bang – up goes the cruising chute.


The VHF crackles again.

“Mina 2, this is Suzie Too, over”

Phew, at least she’s not so far ahead she’s out of radio range. I give my position. There’s a pause.

“You’ve done well overnight” says David, “we’re one of the boats on your starboard beam. You’ve just put up your cruising chute, haven’t you?”

No point in bluffing, he can see the damn thing.


Five minutes later we see his “Big Blue” cruising chute billowing out. He’s not going to let us through without a fight.


The wind is at the top end of the range for our cruising chute. We’re now tearing along at 8.5 to 9 knots like “Havanita”. Almost out of control. It’s brilliant.


Suddenly the sheet (rope holding the sail in) parts. The big sail is thrashing about in the wind. Less brilliant. Like coiled springs Peter and Neil are on the foredeck. Snuff the sail. Reattach sheet. Re launch the sail. No more than a few minutes. How these boys have come on in the last two weeks.


It’s going to be neck and neck to the line. Is this the most exciting day in my life, or what? Oops, I’ve just wet myself. Must dash.