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Leg 6 Missives (b)

CAPE TOWN TO LA ROCHELLE

Leg 6, day 13
This MUST be the reward. I'm sitting in the snake pit, the horseshoe-shaped area to which most of our important ropes run, and have plenty of time to think. The race kite is flying aloft and has been for days now. The sea temperature is 26 and the air temp is 28, we have bright, hot sunshine and it's definitely t-shirt and shorts tradewind sailing. We are on our way north with the African continent to starboard. This HAS to be the reward for the tough times we have faced and there is the likelihood of quite a few more similar days ahead before we reach the Doldrums.

This time last year we had a vague idea of what all the ropes in the snake pit did, now it's all much more obvious. Now we change kites and gybe, gybe and gybe our 72 ft home again and again as if it were second nature, when 10 months ago these were events often ringed with fire in the mind. Moreover, on this leg for the moment our tactics are paying off as Isle of Man creeps up the leaderboard into 3rd position.

The major news this week is that due to the very light winds after leaving Cape Town, the International Jury has confirmed that Leg 7 (La Rochelle to Southampton) will be delayed by exactly one week. The finish therefore will be on Saturday, 30th June 'not before 2pm' we are told! After 30,000 miles at sea, we are to be sent round extra legs on this flexi-course if we are in danger of being too early! 'Shortened course' often happens in dinghy racing but 'lengthened course' is a new one on me!
         
          Jan Giffen at 05 56S 05 14W

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Leg 6, day 14
Now hugging the Liberian coast on the way north, the Isle of Man is closing on the current leader of Leg 6 - Logica. The BT Global Challenge fleet is now over halfway to La Rochelle and the battle at the front is close with other yachts CGN and Compaq also hotly contending for the lead position. Bringing up the rear, the 12th yacht is some 308 miles behind the leaders. There is no room for complacency however, even with the trailing yachts over a day's sailing behind. Choosing where to cross the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (Doldrums) is an all important factor as the yacht which can find wind consistently has a much better chance of winning this, the penultimate leg of the race. The ITCZ changes both in position and size and so each yacht has to make an estimate of where it is and also how big it is and if possible to sail around it or across it at its most narrow point. An incorrect choice could find a substantial lead decimated as a yacht sits for days in a breathless area of glassy ocean.

It has been SO hot on board. I have spent many an hour in the sail locker in the past packing sails but my favourite reason for being there at the moment is because it is one place on board which is relatively cool. There I was, not half an hour ago, lying on the sails and looking up at the bright blue sky through the open forepeak hatch. The red and yellow race kite curls as it threatens to empty and cracks back as it fills. The gentle rocking motion of the yacht is quite soporific and the cooling breeze therein makes me wonder why the rest of the off watch are not all sleeping there too!

Excitement today - a whale, 6-10 metres long, passed by the stern where I happened to be trimming the kite - wonderful, and literally just a few metres away! Scores of flying fish, often 50-60 at a time continue to entertain us but they are very quick - blink and you would miss them. Our more serious entertainment are the polled results. 'Where are we now?' we ask and 'how can we make the boat go faster?'

It was good to receive a message the other day from the Head Teacher at my old school, Clarendon House in Ramsgate. It's good to know that the students are following our progress and wishing us fair winds. To our many, many supporters out there, thank you, it is marvellous to have yourencouragement.

Watch the Isle of Man closely now .....

          Jan Giffen at 05 43N 12 34W

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Read more at Leg 6 Missives (c)

Guestbook updated? Yes / Legs 1-2 updated? Yes / Legs 3-4 updated? Yes / Legs 5-7 updated? Yes


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