Champagne yachting

An elated Jamie Gale reports from the Volvo race leader illbruck
The green machine keeps rolling along! Now that we have cleared the Doldrums we are enjoying some champagne yachting, reaching in 15-20kts of wind around 110TWA. The heat that was so oppressive last week has relented somewhat, and even a few tropical rain showers at night have the positive effect of washing a little of the salt off one's brow! Fortunately for us, illbruck excels in these conditions and we are slowly building a small lead. So far the boat is performing beautifully and the crew (apart from a little gunwhale bum!) are in good health and high spirits. There is nothing like a few good skeds to put smiles on tired faces. Even Nitro (recently inducted into Neptune's realm at the equator in what looked like an extremely painful ceremony) is starting to come around. Obviously we are delighted to be in this position. Our biggest fear prior to this leg was to be caught out by a couple of nasty rain clouds in the Doldrums and get totally dropped by the leaders as half the fleet has been. It must be very painful for the tail-enders to sit in the Doldrums going nowhere fast watching as the lead boats escape into the NE Trades and disappear well over the horizon. As the Trade winds extend almost to the finish it is unlikely there will be any major passing lanes or opportunities to make significant gains. Hence our fear of getting behind, and hence our satisfaction for avoiding this. illbruck is not at her best relative to some of the other boats in the lighter conditions so we had to work even harder than normal to match Tyco and Assa. The thinking was that if we could get through the light air (our weakest area) and across the Equator