Record in the balance
It's 1515 and we have just sailed into a flat calm in the Dover Straits. The boat speed has dropped from 16 knots to seven in the space of less than a minute. We were racing along under medium gennaker when suddenly it shut down. Now, a few minutes later, it is filling in again from the same direction. Neal reckons it's a patchy sea breeze that is not properly established and a shakey gradient breeze in this area. This could be the pattern for the next few hours.
A couple of hours ago we had the usual arrival sweepstake for a 20 Euro tariff. Arrival times were filed secretly and everybody on board put a time ahead of the record. That was the mood an hour ago. Some were as many as five hours before the 0614 local time deadline tomorrow morning.
We are about seven miles offshore here at Dover and we've seen quite a few ships but cannot see land. In fact, we don't expect to see land at all until our Isle of Wight landfall (whenever that might be: the wind has just shut off again). That will mean that after we left the start and our final land sighting of Portland, we will only have seen a short stretch of the south west coast of Ireland, St Kilda and the Shetlands on this circumnavigation; crazy really, I thought I would come back with a picture postcard tour of the UK!
But nobody really cares about that right now. What matters is getting through this last 110 miles in good shape. We need to average just over seven knots which might seem modest but could easily be difficult. Roger Nilson has phoned ahead and found out that the sea breeze down the track is established as far as Lyme Bay, Neal has been onto his brother Duncan in Brighton for a wind update from there and we are using any method we can think of to find out actual wind readings in the English Channel. Clouds can give us predictions and the results of different models but with just a short distance to go this is now macro-weather and staying in the light breeze - whether it be closer to the shore or more to the middle of the Channel - will be the key to finally nailing this record.
I can hear talk of putting someone up the mast and I just heard my name mentioned. It's time to hide!