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Leg 6 Missives (c)

CAPE TOWN TO LA ROCHELLE

Leg 6, day 24
It was spectacular. You would have thought that Isle of Man had planned to stop overnight in Dakar, the tantalisingly close Senegal capital only half a mile away but in fact we were sailing right on by. Many on board yearned for an ice cool beer after over three weeks at sea but some things just have towait. The great thing was seeing this interesting coastline with its mosques, schools and factories so clearly. Aggravatingly, the wind had driven us much closer than we wanted to go and we had to spend a number of hours tacking west to avoid Cap Vert, the headland. This meant that the rest of the fleet further west had a chance to catch up and diminish the lead that we had built up in 3rd place.

Then this evening she drew into sight. LG Flatron, overall race leader with three leg wins to her name, stealthily crept up on Isle of Man from far away. We knew she was coming from the published polled results, the positions given at the Skippers' Chat Show and latterly, the radar. Now we could see her in person, as it were. Both flying spinnakers, it seemed that LG was unstoppable. She caught up to within half a mile and through the misty evening air we could see figures on the foredeck planning their next move. Nothing would have given her crew more pleasure than to pass us at such close quarters. Nothing would have been more painful for IOM. Then it happened, the breeze filled our quickly hoisted genoa and IOM started to pull away leaving LG behind. What a feeling of elation!

I

t's not over by any means and racing continues to be incredibly close. The latest polls show that, having already sailed over 3,500 miles from Cape Town, the top seven yachts are within 66 miles of each other (distance to finish) with Logica leading this, Leg 6, the penultimate leg of the BT Global Challenge. The finish at La Rochelle is just under 2000 miles away. Who will reach France first? And when? How close will the finishers be?

          Jan Giffen at 18 09N 17 21W off the coast of Mauritania

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Leg 6, day 31
It has been a leg of close encounters. First the Isle of Man passed to within half a mile of the Senegal coast, later we kept LG Flatron at bay with them half a mile behind, after that we sped through the Canary Islands with La Palma a mile away to starboard. Yesterday, we left Madeira to port as we enjoyed the last few days of sunny, fresh tradewind sailing. Phenomenal is the word to describe seeing other yachts so close by after 5000 miles of racing. Less than ten miles separate the top four yachts of which the Isle of Man is one.

Sailing is not so arduous at the moment. We continue to reef and change headsails according to wind strength and trim, trim, trim them all to squeeze the extra tenth of a knot for that crucial extra little bit of speed. Bilges do need constant attention - every gallon pumped over the side (by hand, by the way) means that we are several kilos lighter which in turn equates to faster boat speed. So we keep on pumping. What is weary-making is the itchiness that accompanies the salt water hairstyles to which we have long grown accustomed. Yet all of this we will happily endure to see the Isle of Man speeding into La Rochelle in first position. Another six or seven days will tell.

Close encounters include marine life too. Flying fish, flying squid, sharks, dolphins and whales, these we have seen before but to see sea turtles thousands of miles away from land in the middle of the ocean is quite wonderful. But back to the serious stuff of racing now - as a Manx boat, we will be happy if you wish us 'cair vie' or 'fair winds' to speed the Isle of Man along. Watch us carefully now.........

          Jan Giffen at 34 11N 15 49W off the coast of Morocco

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Read more at Leg 6 Missives (d)

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


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