Match race nightmare

Three boats are now neck and neck just 23 miles behind illbruck

Monday February 18th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic

Hosings on the way to Rio Emma Westmacott from Amer Sports Too

I was going to write a few days ago but we were back in the Southern Ocean, dripping wet again. We have had the most amazing runs up this coast to Rio. Power (three sail) reaching with zero visibility from the pressure washing that the waves and spray are giving off straight into one's eyes. The crew trimming but looking down in between, to protect the eyes from wave after wave of full bore high power water just hosing straight into one's cheeks. The water was icy; who ever said it was warmer as soon as you are north of the Falklands? Now it is warmer, now that we are within 800 miles of Rio. The spray cuts the cheeks giving cold blisters and burns to the face and sore eyes.

I celebrated today with the ritual shower bucket on the back of the boat, to wash away all the grease and grime of 21 days of sweat and salt... I had to wash really; I hot bunk with Katie [Pettibone], and yesterday she had to go in to the tide to check the saildrive was clear. We had weed around it and despite a spectacular back down, reaching a grand speed of 1.75 knots backwards we still had a blocked generator intake. Anyway what with her being clean from a swim, I had to at least tidy up my act.

This coast has been incredibly stormy and squally and it has been a constant battle between getting the right rag up for the breeze and not being ridiculously overpowered in the squalls; some were bringing in breeze, some hail, some rain. The gnarlier they looked the more rain and less wind there seemed to be.

The theory worked well and I called to change from the reaching kite [spinnaker] to a slightly bigger runner. Skies were clear, we hadn't even got the rail stacked and tied down. I turned around to see big black clouds. We quickly ballasted up the back of the bus and called to get as many sails to the back as possible. Then it was all on for young and old. It was a case of tie that gear down and hang on. Anna [Drougge] did a great job keeping the kite full, but not over trimmed and we were off.

I don't even know the boat speed, but I saw 25s. I was looking at the waves, sails and wind angle, keeping her flat, fast, and under no circumstances bowling out. The breeze, rapidly went from 25 ... 30....35...40...45...48... here we go, full main, kite up, and just jetting through the water, making our own groove to Rio in the ocean, with a wall of spray rising up either side of the boat, waves barrelling over the deck and all hands keeping her going and finishing the stack.

This lasted about 30 minutes, then there was hail and on she blew to send more spray to someone else. This is why I do this stuff, the adrenalin, the speed, the power of the wind, waves and the energy that you can convert onto the motion of a lightweight racing yacht.

Excellent stuff, always excellent and jokes when you come out alive, crashing would have ended in tears, but the experience lifts the crew to new heights of their own expectations and limits. That is what it is all about, being pushed by nature to you own limits to an extent where you cannot do it alone, you have to work together to get through.

Page five... Email from Ray Davies aboard illbruck

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