After a day off to recuperate, we raced back to
Nanny Cay yesterday under a cloudless blue sky and unforgiving sun. Ian had made
sure that we arrived at the start (this time we knew where it was) in time to
practice our starts. The effort paid off as we skimmed past the committee boat,
barely five metres out, and set off close hauled to starboard, heading for the
windward marker. We were right in the middle of the fleet, and gaining on
the leaders with our greater hull length...
Then disaster struck. In winching in the genoa
tight, we'd put a 'riding turn' around the big electric winch - essentially a
nasty little knot which becomes harder to undo the harder you winch. We'd
winched in very hard, and it wouldn't budge. It meant we had to stand on
starboard long after everyone else had tacked. Then we began to run out of sea,
and still the sail was locked to the winch. Ian tried to take the strain off by
attaching a new rope to the sail, and hauling in on a different winch. All of a
sudden, we had a second riding turn. Glorious.
Tucked out of view of the rest of the field (and
the committee boat) by a huge anchored schooner, we fired up the donk and kept
the boat in the wind, taking the pressure out of the gib while we worked on the
knots. This approach began to produce results, but it took time and soon there
was a mighty honking, as a giant white catamaran bore down on us. She was the
Necker Belle, part of the race, and the baby of Richard Branson. Using the
engine again, we scooted out of the way, out consciences growing more guilty by
the second. Then, the sail was freed and we tacked back into the main part of
the fleet, which was rounding the windward buoy. Slotting like a missing
brick into the wall of boats, we innocuously rejoined the
Then, it was all downwind sailing, dicing with an
accidental gybe. There were some tactics around navigating through a clump of
small islands, and we picked up some places. The wind picked up and we were
suddenly flitting across the light waves at 9 knots. Unfortunately, the rest of
the field must have been doing even more, because they slid past us one by one.
A 44-footer steamed up from behind and passed us is if we were standing still.
There was much muttering about (very) local wind conditions, but in truth, we
don;t really know why we fell behind in the second half of the race. It's likely
to be a whole raft of different mistakes we're making, so we'll have to
experiment today when the competition continues.
Happily, we saw Branson's Necker Belle struggling
to bring in a few tattered streamers of red cloth, which looked a if they
had once been her spinnaker, so we weren't the only ones with problems. Then
again, as we motored into Nanny Cay marina for the night, we passed the Branson
boat already moored up, with the Virgin everything billionaire standing at the
stern, chatting to some motorboaters. With long white-blond hair, he looks very
much like the photos. Music chuirned out from his boat well into the night, and
there were dozens of people milling about on his party deck.
Even the news that we'd chipped away at our earlier
11th place to come in 14th couldn't stop the crew of los Escapados from
dancing merrily to the strains of reggae, calypso and other natty tunes. There
was a great atmosphere around the marina from all the racing folk, and we bumped
into one of the ARC skippers we'd met in Las Palmas - a peroxide blond character
called Jacko, who apparently travels the world skippering boats for people.
Dominique and Marie-Christine at the Bitter
The Bitter End Yacht Club
As close as we got to the prizes, on the way
Team Two (the catamaran) crowding into the dinghy
on our day off
Werner helming us to the start line on
Bea engaging in some last minute revision:
'Understanding the rules of racing'
Ian, studying the sails