BT Global Challenge 20/03/01

Conrad Humphreys, straight from the heart

Tuesday March 20th 2001, Author: Conrad Humphreys, Location: United Kingdom
Tired and exhausted, I have just slumped onto the nav seat as Katherine hands me a hot soup. I don't want to repeat the last four-hour watch. To say that it was hell is an understatement. We dropped the main as the wind reach 40 knots, and powered along nicely with the storm staysail and number three. At 55 knots I didn't want to risk blowing the number three, but by now the sea state was smoking.
Driving spray and sleet completely blinded me as I asked one of the guys to do the unthinkable and venture into frontier land to drop the three and drag it back. Archie, Kester, Laura leading the trio withTim Jeffery there as support ventured forward as I spun LG Flatron downwind.

At first the foredeck is dry and stable and as I struggle to keep her dead downwind, everything seems calm. Cliffy screams "3 - 2 - 1" and bangs the halyard off, just as we pick up a monster wave. At the back, I look in horror as a breaking crest towers 40 feet above the stern quarter - my mouth goes completely dry.

I want to throw up, I'm sweating. This is fear, I'm looking at the guys who are blissfully unaware in the throes of doing a perfect drop. I try to scream, but nothing comes out. LG is picked up like a toothpick and hurtled forward down the face. I'm sure we are going to bury the bow, as we launch headfirst down a 50ft ramp.

Spluttering, all four emerge, tethers taut, still holding the three. LG starts to round up, as I use every ounce of strength trying to hold the wheel down. We break free and surf at over 11 knots with just the storm staysail up. We have won the first battle and the three is safely down below.

The wind is now gusting 66 knots and we are a sitting duck with no drive from the stormstay. The waves are just phenomenal. Lessons from the ill-fated Sydney-Hobart race in 1998 ring out in my mind. The yachts that retired and didn't fight on were vulnerable. A yacht needs speed to have options. With just the stormstay up these boats just wallow at little over 4 knots, not enough to scale a 40ft crest.

Dragging the trysail forward in 60 knots is no easy exercise. Forty-five minutes later it's up and LG is back on the pace, sailing in more or less the right direction. The last four hours will have cost us some valuable miles.....aha here's the 1345 position sked.

Gone to bed
Cheers, Conrad

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