Totally exceeding my expectations

Australian Nick Brennan recounts how he came to finish fifth overall in the recent Mini Transat
My long held hope of placing top ten in the Mini Transat had been badly dented by a poor placing on the first leg. I had ended up in slightly the wrong place on the first night close to the middle of a ridge of high pressure, and spent the rest of the leg playing catchup, finally finishing in 22nd. Of course breaking the end off my spinnaker pole on the last day hadn't helped my cause, but probably only cost me an hour or so. Fortunately, despite my poor finishing position, the time difference to all bar the two leaders was not that great, giving me some hope if I could muster a good second leg performance. East or West? After two weeks in Madeira, we were all more than happy to be on our way. However, a depression centred around the Azores was playing havoc with the North Atlantic high and a period of very light winds was forecast for after the start. From the models, it looked the the option was to go either east or west, and that you didn't want to get stuck in the middle. But each new update to the weather models was substantially different and you knew there was going to be an element of luck to getting a good start. The start Starts with 89 singlehanded boats are always interesting affairs, especially with many of the sailors not coming from strong dinghy background. On our first start, a general recall was issued but the second time, we managed to get away cleanly. My timing and positioning was ok, but I got caught in the dirt of one of the race favourites, Sam Manuard on Sitting Bull and so was a little slow off the line. The committee had set a 'degagement' buoy just off