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Leg 6 Missives (a)


Leg 6, day 3
Leaving Cape Town, Isle of Man recovered from a poor start and swept miraculously into 1st place after a decision to keep Robben Island to the east while the rest of the BT Global Challenge fleet went west. The yachts are now racing north but not with the same speed as the word 'racing' implies as all are suffering from a huge band of high pressure resulting in very little wind. Keeping focussed on making the boat go fast can be difficult hour after hour when seemingly little progress is being made, so some on the spot entertainment is created. Yesterday's diversion involved naming the countries on the African continent. Who could do that? Did it matter? No, but it kept us amused and thinking.

Today it's my turn for motherwatch. It's only 8am but I have cleared away the breakfast dishes and made 4 loaves of bread. These are easy tasks when the elements are not fighting against but working with you. 'Chariots of Fire' is playing in the background it really does make it feel that we are on the homeward run, as we head north to our next port of call, La Rochelle in France. Already one bright spark has got out the French phrasebook and is playing 'guess the meaning', not an easy task for the listeners when the accent makes the phrases partly unintelligible! Over the next month, the real business of sailing the yacht fast will no doubt be interspersed with many such instant diversions.

Heading homeward, the conversation naturally turns to what comes next after the mighty challenge, the circumnavigation ends. We were told that taking part in the race would be a life-changing experience and for many, it has been. So what does come next? Will returning to an old job be satisfying enough? Who, if anyone, will look for something completely different? Will it be difficult to settle down after such an exciting 'year out'? With six weeks to go to the race end in Southampton, there is yet time to ponder.
          Jan Giffen off the west coast of Africa at 30 52S 15 54E

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Leg 6, day 9
We have already been at sea for nine days and haven't had a soaking yet which is unheard of! It's great from the point of view of staying dry but not from the point of view of 'getting there'. With 4700 miles to go and espresso coffee and croissants in France in mind, we want to go as fast as possible. For much of the time, a spinnaker has been aloft and right now it's the turn of our flanker, the heavyweight kite. Every four hours the polls show our yo-yoing positions. One time we are 1st, the next 4th, the next 3rd and the next 6th, it's very up and down. There is some concern that the previous lack of strong wind will make our arrival date days later than expected but there is no controlling the wind. All that can be said to those wishing to greet the fleet in La Rochelle is to keep watching the official race website
www.btchallenge.com for the latest ETA.

I mentioned diversions last time. Well, the on board French is improving....'je voudrais un chasseur' (I would like a hunter) was someone's attempt at hypothetically buying a pair of shoes ('chaussures'). Well, it's nearly the same! Another form of entertainment is music; our difficulty is that we hear the same few CDs playing endlessly. One rule this leg is to ensure that no CD gets the chance to play repeatedly but as with many rules, it has already been broken. Oh for some decent speaking radio too! Hopefully we will be picking up the BBC World Service soon. An abundance of sunshine and the lack of exhausting deck work has given me the chance to read my chosen book for this, the penultimate leg - 'Into The Void' by Joe Simpson - a climber's harrowing autobiographical account of being left for dead on the descent of Siula Grande in the Andes. With a badly broken and mangled leg, Joe successfully made it back to base camp, much of it by pulling himself there on his stomach. Let us hope that it never gets so bad for any of us.

Great books are wonderful distractions, but given the weight allowance of 9.5 kilos for this leg, that meant I could bring one book. The problem with that, of course, is that I have almost finished it and we have some weeks to go. I try to sleep but it is hot. Fans whir, other crew members snore contentedly around me and above my bunk, on deck, there is laughter. Various understandable boat noises contribute to the general cacophony. One metre away from where I am trying to sleep are the yellow Curver boxes, each containing a day's food. As the yacht rolls from side to side, the sixteen Curvers respect gravity and slide with the motion. The yacht rolls to port and the Curvers slide toward me - CLUNK - thumping to attention like soldiers as they simultaneously hit their retaining straps. I listen to the
sound of the sea as Isle of Man surges through the waves and hope that I too will be in the Land of Nod soon.

          Jan Giffen off the coast of Namibia at 18 19S 07 38E

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