6th October, 2000 Charlestown, Boston, U.S.
The 10th September was a day that I had been
looking forward to for years, literally. It turned out to be all that I had expected and more. Thousands of small craft thronged the seething Solent to wish us farewell. We wanted to look out for friends and family on
the spectator ferries but couldn't take our minds away from the task in hand - there was a yacht race to be won, after all. The Isle of Man made a poor start in the light winds but soon caught the rest of the pack. With
spinnakers flying, the fleet jockeyed for position toward Hurst Castle, then at last, we were past the Needles and away! On board the 'Isle of Man', watches started at 7pm and we had a chance to start settling in to the
routine of six hours on then six off during the daytime and four hours on/off/on at night. For those of us who usually enjoy seven hours sleep at a time, this would be a luxury to be experienced only after arriving in
Life at 35 degrees
When the wind kicks in and the pressure in the sails forces the yacht to sail at a 35 degree incline or
greater, life gets hard. Walking is difficult whereas sliding and falling are easy and on the foredeck, a liking for working on all fours is useful. Cooking in the galley is irritating as pots and pans slide
around whilst their contents jerk about and using the heads (toilet) becomes extremely unpleasant. Just use your imagination!
Working on the
foredeck can sometimes be perilous. Imagine - the yacht may already be at 35 degrees; the waves are HUGE, the bow surges over the top of one crest and plunges steeply into the trough below; the foredeck crew get
soaked by the waves crashing over the bow. It's hardly surprising that sometimes injury occurs. After a week at sea, I fell badly across the open forepeak hatch, bruising myself sufficiently to wonder if I
would need a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, that wasn't necessary and the nearest hospital was over a thousand miles away by helicopter anyway. Such an airlift was later necessary from Logica, where a fellow crew
volunteer was suffering from peritonitis.
Work on board
Off watch means just that for us, we have time to read our e-mail, read, write, wash and
sleep, anything we want. During the on watch, we take it in turns to do the navigation log, the weather log, pump the bilges, clear the grey tank, change the sails and endlessly 'trim, trim, trim'. Two crew members per
day cook for all and do the cleaning chores.
It's often the first thing that visitors to the yacht ask. 'How do you all get on?' 'You
must get on each other's nerves?' And yes, it has been very interesting to see how behaviour can change when people are tired or hungry. We often have preconceived ideas about others influenced by the cars they
drive, the clothes they wear, the houses in which they live and the jobs they do. Excepting a doctor, an engineer and an electrician - these all have obvious skills that are of real practical use on board but
otherwise, getting to know crew members is somewhat simplified as similar kit is worn, cars and houses have no part to play and a person's personailty and behaviour says much more about them than any job title. Much
could be said on this matter.........
Cyclone/tropical storm Helene
The forecast was for 40 knots and I had been off watch for half an hour when Helene
struck. Within five minutes the wind speed indicator was recording 45, 50, 60, 70 and finally a horrifying 78 knots of wind. All hell seemed to break loose above our heads as the foredeck team struggled to
take down the flogging headsail. Was I scared? You could say that. When the noise is incredibly loud, when your home is leaping and jumping all around you and sounding like a train hurtling through a tunnel, when you
can hear cracking glass and you have never before experienced such a phenomenon, yes, I told myself, it was okay to be scared! The headsail ended up in pieces.
I set myself the task of writing a full page entry in my diary for each day of the race. The day when the cyclone hit is unsurprisingly empty. Our off watch time became
full 'on' as we inspected damage and tried to repair what we could. No time to write that day, and really no need as the memories are so vivid.
Results for Leg 1
To race for several thousand miles and have the first six yachts finish within ten hours of each other shows just how competitive this race is. With
just a few hours to the finish, we, on the Isle of Man, were having a tacking duel with Veritas, which we sadly lost due to lack of choice in our diminished sail wardrobe! How aggravating to lose a valuable point
by finishing less than 15 minutes behind!