(this blog should have been posted before the previous ones but went to the wrong address!)
It’s been life at 40 degrees again for a while. We’ve left behind the relaxing Shelter Bay marina with its friendly staff and holiday swimming pool (we had longer there than expected as we were waiting for a part to arrive for one of the boats) and we are now firmly back at sea. We had the most spectacular Le Mans start (where you all line up with just your main hoisted then at the gun, or in this case the skipper from Goldcoast calling down from 10 to 1 over the VHF, you then hoist the rest of your sails, first one to get them hoisted and trimmed quickest gets the best advantage) at twilight. All 10 boats lined up in the Caribbean Sea poised to hoist sails and head for New York. At the gun we all sprang forward from mid ships and worked like 100 meter sprinters to hoist our Yankee and Staysails quicker than the rest of the fleet then sprinted to sit on the rail. Normally we do this for the first hour or two as it looks great for the pictures and gives us time to enjoy the race start. I know people say it is to make the boat go faster but I remain unconvinced that the crew weight on the rail of our 40 tonne boat really makes that much difference.
However, on this race start, who would want it any other way, it was the most beautiful race start in terms of sunsets, our 10 boats looked stunning silhouetted against an amazing Caribbean sky.
Our normally short stint on the rail became the norm over the next few days. Averaging about 25 knots apparent the wind on the nose not only helped carry us swiftly towards Haiti and Cuba but it kept us on the rail for quite some time! Flav is keen to have us sit on the rail so watch after watch we cling to the high side like limpets for 4 or 6 hours while the salt water hits us in the face and shoots up our foulie arms or legs. It is not the most comfortable position on the boat and as I mentioned – does it really make any difference?, but it is hard to refuse when Flav spent 2 full watches on the rail on race start day – once again leading by example and setting the bench mark. Below we are back to swinging around like monkeys and avoiding sitting in the wet patches where the waves have washed through the hatches. On deck it means clipping on and wearing full foulies to stay dry even although it is still very warm. For those who have just joined and thus far have experienced our flat, sunny, downwind race to Panama, then it’s a bit more novel and exciting. For all of us it has been great to be with the pack and not only that we have been at the front of it for a few days now. Each watch we come on deck and find that we can see the other boats and have been taking miles from them in our upwind race north to the Windward Passage.