"4ft of very fast moving mast pierced the deckhead"


Curses. Gartmore's dismasting upset Ollie Dewar's plans for luncheon
Gartmore's 4,000 mile transatlantic crossing was, initially, remarkably benign with light airs and a greasy, lava lamp swell. We picked up a high-pressure system south east of Bermuda and rode it northeast, hoping to link with the Azores High and slingshot round into The Channel Approaches. Other than some very un-Atlantic weather I noticed an almost total absence of wildlife. One inquisitive whale shadowed us for forty-five minutes and drew so close to our starboard quarter that I could have leapt from the deck onto its back. This said, just WSW of The Azores we had a night collision with something sentient; happily not a lost container, oil drum or fishing net. We took the impact low on the keel-fin, a sensation similar to running aground in soft mud. It is likely to have been a large shark rather than a small whale: whales sleep on the surface and a collision would have caused some serious waterline damage. Our victim freed itself from the keel, missed hitting either of the twin rudders and drifted unseen astern. This high seas homicide heralded our entering a truly 'grand cru' gale that was to last for three days. We were warmed up by headwinds of between 35-50 knots (Force 8-10) forcing us to crack-off to an apparent wind angle of 55 degrees. By the second day (my birthday, damn it!) it had reached 65+ knots (Force 12). During all this the wind instruments measured a squall of 70 knots. Fortunately, at the time I couldn't read the instruments as I was up at the pointy end of the boat concentrating on reducing the mainsail's area. At the time had someone shouted, "Hey, you! The one lying face down on the foredeck in the three layer, breathable Gore-Tex system, it's blowing 70 knots!" I would

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