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LOG from Leg 2 of Les Sables - Les Azores - Les Sables

20th Aug, 2014

Thursday 7th August, 10.30 

COG: 76°Distance to go: 1148 nm / Wind: 278°, 25 knots

Seb (660) is just 1.9nm ahead of me, to the North; while Jean-Marie (774) is 5.7 nm ahead and to the South. I’ve managed to hold off Benoit (Gully-Vert) by a good 5 nm. Overnight I’ve had gusts of over 30 knots so changed to the code 5 early this morning.

Friday 8th August, 11.30

COG: 98° / Distance to go: 931 nm /  Wind: 333°, 4.3 knots

It's the ‘calm before the storm’;strong winds are expected tonight and tomorrow. I heard on the VHF that Seb (660) and Yann (759) plan to sail a course of 90° to stay below 43°N. I am going to do the same, as the forecast this morning is for over 35 knots further North – or a maximum of 30 knots from the SW below 43° N. I’m changing back to the big kite now; Seb is 10 miles directly ahead, I’ve got two boats quite close behind….

Friday, 15.45

COG: 31° /Distance to go: 967 nm / Wind: 209°, 9 knots

Well, I’m back with the pack; Seb, Jean-Marie, Yann and Nikki Curwen – all within VHF range, so roughly 15-20 miles away. I’ve gathered from the rankings that the leaders of the series fleet are about 40 nm ahead!

I had a problem this morning. I put the sleep timer on for 20 minutes, but woke 2 hours later and 10 miles to windward of Seb (e.g. too far North). There is only about 3 knots of wind so it is pretty frustrating at the moment.

Friday, 20.45

COG: 89° /Distance to go: 934 nm / Wind: 254°, 20 knots

We are out of range of the support boats, so we have done our own ranking list with Seb, Yann etc. Seb is now only 6.5nm ahead, we’re doing pretty much the same speed and course over ground. Gully-Vert appeared earlier this afternoon – 10 miles away. I’m expecting SW’ly winds becoming Northerly and lighter towards the finish; but not before 30 knots tonight!

Saturday 9th August, 04.45

COG: 81° /Distance to go: 874 nm / Wind: 228°, 30 knots

I can’t see anyone on the AIS. I woke up at 0800 assuming Benoit (663) is still behind; the wind is averaging 24 knots now with gusts up to 32, I had 2 reefs in the main and one in the jib overnight, I should put the genneker back up now... The sea is pretty lumpy…I’m hoping for VHF contact and need to helm again…I keep broaching out a lot. Seb is still 10 nm ahead and Benoit just 7nm behind; got to keep pushing!

Saturday, 10.30 

COG: 118° /Distance to go: 831 nm / Wind: 267°, 30 knots

TWA is 150 degrees, perfect! Expecting  a N/NW shift of about 18-32 knots tonight and tomorrow. I need to be above 45 N, I’m going to gybe…it appears that Seb has over taken me again but  I did catch him overnight. VHF contact with the others is minimal.

Saturday, 21.30 

COG: 81° /Distance to go: 755 nm / Wind: 348°, 21 knots

Seb is just 2.8nm behind! I caught him this afternoon and sailed close by for a bit, as he sounded really low; he had broken his bow sprit, and I was grateful for the company.  I can hear Yann (579) on VHF but he can’t hear me. Currently just on main and jib, waiting for the wind to shift so I can go back to genneker / code 5.

Sunday 10th August, 10.30 

COG: 86° /Distance to go: 676 nm / Wind: 005°, 11 knots

I sailed all night on the pilot, up to 25 knots. The wind has eased this morning so I am back on full jib and main. Seb remains to the South of me, I’ve got 3.4 nm miles on him. I had an excellent reception on the SSB radio this morning, lying around 18th just after Jean-Maire and Yann Claverie. Sandy is some 80 miles behind. Waiting for a westerly wind shift to come, the genneker is ready and waiting. Really tired last night and this morning, I slept a lot but it’s time for a filter coffee now, then helming until lunch time (tuna salad). Everything is pretty soaking wet, the sky is very overcast and the boat batteries are getting low.

Monday 11th August, 10.00 

COG: 50° /Distance to go: 527 nm / Wind: 254°, 14 knots

Flying on the big spinnaker in 15 knots, it’s still cat and mouse with Seb; now he is 3 nm ahead, but I’m 1.5 knots faster. The other guys are about 20 miles to leeward. Just 160 nm to the DST off Finisterre – although I am way above it so no need to worry about shipping.

Monday, 13.00 

COG: 80° /Distance to go: 512 nm / Wind: 246°, 13 knots

Gybed around 11.00, now doing 80-85 degrees COG. Waiting for a NW wind and a little worried that I’m sailing to far South; Seb is only 2.5 nm away now, and annoyingly Benoit (663) somehow over took during the night. I don’t know what tack Yann is on….

Monday, 18.15 

COG: 86° / Distance to go: 478 nm / Wind: 270°, 14 knots

Wind is more westerly. I’ve been listening to ‘Emma’ as an audiobook, but the sentences are so long and complicated and the speaker has a very boring voice so it hasn’t been much entertainment.  I ate bolognse and too many chocolate peanuts. Feeling exhausted, and my batteries don’t seem to be charging…I’ve switched to the Raymarine pilot and computer to save power. 

Monday, 01.30 

COG:29° / Distance to go: 436 nm / Wind: 116°, 5.4 knots

Man, that was a difficult night. I could hardly sleep squashed in on top of the stacking bags (anchors do not make good pillows). I got thrown to the other side of the boat a couple of times. I got to just 0.3nm from the stern of Seb which was a bit worrying, because we both needed to sleep but couldn’t risk crashing the boats. I put the pilot onto True wind mode and stole some sleep, but the boat was broaching... the problem is the wind is too unstable... I did a really bad course over ground and Seb is now almost 6 miles to windward! I've got to helm again now no matter how tired I am to catch up!

Monday, 23.30 

COG: 80° / Distance to go: 512 nm / Wind: 246°, 13 knots

The wind has gone to the SW and is very light…I woke up to a flapping medium spinnaker so have switched to the genneker. Looks like Seb changed sails about 20 minutes earlier than me, he has pulled ahead by 3.7 nm. But I’m sailing quicker. It's Raining. Eaten the last of Mum’s flapjack. Batteries still very low and everything is wet. Turned all my instruments off…I’m too tired to helm, need every last bit of juice for the pilot. Could be a Wednesday finish at this rate?

Tuesday 12th August, 01.30 

COG: 29° / Distance to go: 436 nm / Wind: 116°, 5 knots

Flipping heck! I meant to sleep for 30 minutes but have slept for 2 hours. I just woke up to discover there has been a 90 degree wind shift… now from the ESE, not expected. Seb is 7 nm to windward, luckily only doing  2 knots over ground…. I’ve sailed 20 miles North, the wrong direction. I’m so angry. The wind should be SW at 25 knots as I'm crossing between the Charcot East / Finisterre areas. 

Tuesday, 06.45

COG: 63° / Distance to go: 429 nm / Wind: 350°, 10 knots

Can’t believe it, I fell asleep again and woke at 0600 doing 320 degrees. I tacked quickly and the wind has now become NW, back on a course. How stupid ... that’s 17 nm in the wrong direction (North) so have made ZERO progress to Les Sables – I’ve still got 436 miles to sail! Looks like Seb has made a similar mistake. Better make sure the pilot is on compass not true wind mode next time….

Tuesday, 11.00 

COG: 80° /Distance to go: 400 nm / Wind: 315°, 16 knots

Very poor SSB reception and batteries are low. Wind mostly NW 10-20 knots but expeting some SW this morning in Finisterre. I know my pack of boats are just south of me, Sandy is still behind but I don't know by how much. Think I will just ‘stick to the road’, sailing with the genneker.

Tuesday, 16.30 

COG: 79° /Distance to go: 357 nm / Wind: 001°, 25 knots

Sailed only 40 miles in 5 ½ hours. Wind is WNW, up to 30 knots. Had a really hard day. Genneker, then code 5, but struggling with both…can’t get any pilots to hold course on this hotter and breezier angle. I think it is the swell, 4-5m and the waves seem huge- currently surfing under main and jib doing up to 11 knots over ground! Still keep broaching when the swell hits us side on though.

I had Jean-Marie very clearly on VHF but he can’t hear me, no one is showing on the AIS. These conditions are all thanks to Hurricane Bertha. Seb seems to have a problem, he is relaying his position on AIS, a support boat seems to be looking for him…

Wednesday 13th August, 03.00

COG: 77° /Distance to go: 289 nm / Wind: 310°, 20 knots

Tuesday afternoon, while reefing the jb, I noticed that the starboard spreader had snapped clean off. Luckily to leeward! NIGHTMARE, as now can’t push the boat for fear of losing the mast. I have tied both kite halyards to the deck as extra support, the way the mast is bending has given me a fright. It looks like a 49er rig. Got 3 reefs in the main and the storm jib up to keep pressure off, as currently I’ve got gusts of 32 knots and the swell is still massive. Climbing the rig is not an option.

Still, approaching Biscay and I’m doing 10 knots over ground, the further I go the less the swell, so at least I can go back onto pilot; I’m only drawing 0.7 amps at the moment and the batteries are slowly topping up.

There are a lot of cargo ships around, I've heard Seb (660) talking to one of them as a link to the support boat. Feeling pretty down. Is this race over?

Wednesday, 08.40 

COG: 80° /Distance to go: 260 nm / Wind: ?

Managed to sleep for an hour and can stay on the pilot as long as I use the Raymine computer (which means no wind data). I'm finally clear of the shipping, at one point I had 14 cargo ships all within 10 miles. Making steady progress to Les Sables, sometimes at 8 knots over ground. Swell is still large – must be 4/5 metres – and very cloudy sky. It is like surfing in Newquay. I feel a bit ill. Perhaps it is stress.

Wednesday, 10.30 

COG: 82° /Distance to go: 250 nm / Wind: 320°, 16 knots

Heard the weather forecast very well this morning on the SSB, and got a pleasant surprise… the race is still on, I’m 15th overall! Seb (660) is two places behind, and I have a feeling Sandy (583) has probably broken a spreader too, as he had a problem before the start of the race. I can’t do much but sail a straight line under reduced sail, frustrating when there are boats close by…but the sun is out, the batteries are up… I’m happy, it’s time to do a cross word.

Wednesday, 16.30 

COG: 78° /Distance to go: 216 nm / Wind: 310°, 15 knots

I managed to contact the support boat Arlova who have been close by  all day. They are phoning Denis (the race director) to let him know about my broken spreader. I also had Benoit (667) on VHF, he is back behind me, some 15 nm… pilot problems are giving him a headache. Still 3 reefs in the main and storm jib, but the wind has eased… its time to push the boat a little harder – onto full main and one reef in the jib, will see how it goes.

Wednesday, 19.00 

COG: 88° /Distance to go: 200 nm / Wind: 310°, 16 knots

Yes! 200 nm to go! I shold finish tomorrow. Been doing a cross word and had dinner (tuna, beans, crackers and nuts). Making a mug of tea now, steering under pilot, think it’s better than me trying to follow the compass.

Thursday 14th August, 03.30

COG: 76° /Distance to go: 154 nm / Wind: NW

Well I've slept a lot. 50 miles done in 8 hours. Not so great. It is really a lot colder now, I’m also starving so have just cooked some porridge.

Thursday, 07.30

COG: 74° /Distance to go: 134 nm / Wind: NW

20 miles in 4 hours. Oh dear. This is slow. But what can I do? I don’t know how much to push this boat! Losing the mast would be even slower!

Thursday, 15.30

COG: 74° / Distance to go: 86 nm / Wind: 276°, 19 knots

Felt incredibly lonely the past hour. I really miss my family right now. I think it is difficult because the distance left to go is short but my speed is slow… I will arrive tomorrow morning but need to get my act together… I just can’t help feeling really down! I hate it when there is too much time to think. I’d rather be broaching out in 35 knots.

Friday, 02.00

COG: 85° / Distance to go: 16 nm / Wind: 320°, 19 knots

Yes! Almost there! 18 miles to the finish. 'Phare Armandeche' is showing on the AIS, that’s pretty much were the harbour entrance is, it’s great to see it on a screen. I can see lots of lights… there is this dash of golden yellow, the safe haven in this dark landscape. I should finish about 0400, I expect my family will be on the harbour wall, Mum’s bound to have been following like a hawk on the AIS…I can’t wait to see them!