Will they or won't they?

Maiden just 10 miles off Club Med's record with 276 miles to go. Paul Larsen reports

Sunday April 21st 2002, Author: Maiden2, Location: Transoceanic

Helena Darvelid at the helm

Day 10 report
Distance to finish: 276nm
Distance since start: 3612nm
Yacht log (actual miles sailed): 4771nm
Average speed needed to break record: 18.4kts
Average speed since start: 15.05kts
Hours to finish: 15hrs approx
Hours since start: 240hrs
Average daily miles: 361.2
Club Med position: 25 00N 69 50W
Maiden Two position: 24 09N 69 41W
Miles behind Club Med: 10nm
Current speed: 15kts
Current heading: 226T
Wind: E at 12kts
Forecast: Wind east 10-15kts with a possible shift to the NE, wind decreasing overall.

Will we or won't we? - an on board report from Paul Larsen

Just when it looks like it's obvious that we won't the wind becomes favourable and it appears we will. Then there's the flipside to this. Last night all three watches had the opportunity to blast Maiden II along straight for the finish line hitting speeds around 30 knots in the squalls.

We have the maximum sail area up and all on board now feel quite handy at dealing with this configuration. The wind instruments went down during the starless night but a makeshift 'wind wand' was quickly erected on the aft transom.

During our headlong dash we managed to scrape ahead of the record pace set by this very boat two years previously and all was looking good with only 350 miles left to cover in 20 hours. The last watch, however, suffered from a very shifty dying breeze which necessitated a gybe with less than 300 miles to go.

It's so frustrating. This record attempt has been borderline for a long time and never felt like a certainty. We have given the course a not too romantic name due to the constant direction of the wind relative to the boat. The trouble is with these mighty boats that you can never give up due to the speeds they are capable of. A change of breeze that may seem slight to most boats can see these behemoths go from a mild trot to a mile eating gallop. So we push on.

Either way the record will come down to a matter of hours maybe minutes. Pretty good considering that when I joined the project 25 days ago the boat was sitting on cradles in the La Ciotat boatyard in the south of France with the mast laying alongside! Now, sitting here tapping this out, we are 270 odd miles from the finish of a transatlantic record attempt the success of which will be decided not by skill or lack of preparation but by the fickle nature of the weather. We've given it our best shot, worked together extremely well and gained invaluble experience sailing this wonderful boat.

Adrienne just confirmed that we are a mere 10 miles behind Club Med at this stage. We desperately need a strong finish. You just can't resign yourself to defeat with so many optimists on board despite what the latest weather charts show. So onwards we march and besides...once across the line we turn tale and head for Antigua Race week 800 miles away so it can't be that bad. Stay tuned.

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