Tuesday 6th of December

Tue 6 Dec 2005 14:40
Title: Message
Position 16.4656.35W
We were keeping up a good pace now, with the "Big Blue" spinnaker leading our charge.
We watched the 'miles to go' click down to under 500 in the night, and with the sails set, the crew started to ponder crossing the finish line, and returning to the World that they had left behind over two weeks ago.
On such a long journey, the crew had not let themselves think more than a couple of days ahead, just concentrating on the challenges at hand and getting safely and happily through the next 24 hours. 
Taking shade from the sun, the discussions turned to what (apart from our families) we had missed most, and what purchases would be prioritised as soon as our feet were on dry land. It was clear that the no.1 priority for most of the crew was a cold beer, 8 lined up on a bar for all the crew. Following that, Simon and Bails were looking forward to long showers that lasted more than 60 seconds, and Charlie and Dave would be looking for a latte and a mars bar (with a coke chaser for Dave of course).
Lunch of Bailey's chicken & porcini mushrooms in a white wine sauce with cous cous, led into a lazy afternoon of reading and listening to music.
By dinner we had received the days positions of all the boats, and were a little disappointed that we had not closed the gap further with the ones in front. As the boats on the southern route clearly had stronger winds, new contenders were now coming in to the fray - with one Belle, jumping into the top 5. This meant we were holding 5th position in class (over the water), just one mile behind La Royere.
The winds were building, and we were struggling to eat our beef in ale with potatoes. The traditional Rioja even had to be left until desert, as it was impossible to hold on to everything as we flew along at 9.5 knots into the night.
With an early night on the cards for most of the crew, the main topic of conversation at the dinner table was that we had nothing interesting to report in the web diary....how wrong we were...
1.06am Ian banged into cabins "All hands on deck - we've got a wrap".
Like fire-fighters on a shout, the crew clambered for clothes and life jackets, and were all assembled on deck in under 60 seconds.
The scene that confronted them was a scary sight, with the more experienced sailors knowing this was a serious situation. In a heavy gust of wind the "Big Blue" spinnaker had wrapped itself around the forestay, and was now in an 'hour glass' shape unable to untangle.
Immediate action was vital before it got worse, but it was wrapped so tight the sail would not come down.
Over the next hour the encounter was like an epic game of rugby against Odin's own XV. On the foredeck Charlie, Bails, Tollers, and Nicko were engrossed in a frantic and relentless maul with the bottom of the sail - waves crashing over from the dark. Cheetham at scrum half was directing the attack, lay on his back in front of the mast with a high powered search light pointing to the heavens. Behind him in the cockpit were our defence of Simon, Ron, and Tom - with an overview of what was happening up front they repeatedly tried to sway conditions in our favour, turning the boat to try and give us an advantage.
The sound of the angry sail meant that it was impossible to hear anyone shout unless they were next to you.
Like any good team, the most important element was trust in your team-mates. Up front the foredeck team were trying to untwist the sail around the forestay, in the knowledge that if more than two of them let go at any time, the others could be lifted from the deck by the power of the sail.
At around 2.00am someone called full time - we had fought and fought, but Odin was not letting go. To Charlie's relief, Andy decided it was too much of a risk to go up the mast in the dark. We would contain the problem for now, and schedule a return fixture with Odin at dawn.
Ron spun the boat round and round, now helping the sail to wrap tighter around the forestay. This would cripple our ability to fully sail, but would keep the spinnaker out of trouble.
The crew retreated to the cockpit, the knowledge that after 2000 miles and the drama of Tropical Storm Delta we were now effectively out of the race with less than 500 miles to go.
Nobody spoke for a moment before a shout went out.
Everyone looked forward with disbelief to see one of the tighter twists at the top come loose. Without speaking the foredeck crew ran back into action, diving on the bottom of the sail. The referee above had called for extra time! With Bailey acting as the anchor, Charlie, Tollers, and Nicko passed the sail repeatedly around the forestay, hanging on with everything they had. Five turns, six, seven...then suddenly Andy shouted "It's free!". The sail was dragged to the foredeck in an instant.
A few moments silence was broken with the sound of relieved laughter. The full time whistle was had gone - ATLANTIC LIONS 21 ODIN'S XV 20. We'd done it.
The beast of a sail was returned to it's cage in the forepeak - and the genny unfurled and poled out to starboard. Still doing 9.5 knots under the new rig, we celebrated with a cup of tea. Back in the race, the 'miles to go' clicked down to 399.
"Looks like it's bedtime then...who's on watch?"
Finally once again thank you all for your emails (especially Ladybarn House School) we love receiving them they bring a smile to our faces every time and keep us in touch with the outside world.
Now Crew Out.