Plenty to play for

A further band of light airs is slowing the Volvo fleet

Tuesday May 7th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Email from Roger Nilson aboard Amer Sports One

Fresh Toilet Paper

What a contrast.... the last two days we have been sailing like madman, hanging on to our lives with the biggest possible kite up. Right now we are fighting for every inch in hardly any breeze.

Were the last two days irresponsible? Not in our eyes, but I think when you had put anybody from ashore on the boat, he/she wouldn't understand why in the hell we had to push so hard, and would have thought we where ripe for the mental hospital.

But the sailing was fantastic, probably the best of the race so far.

We had a little mishap; we blew out our reaching masthead spinnaker for the third time this trip. It just popped without any warning, but this time it is beyond repair. Phil [Airey], our onboard sailmaker, did a fantastic job in the two previous repairs, spending hours downstairs in very bouncy conditions. Just imagine, you have nearly 280 square metres of stiff Cuben Fibre sailcloth, cramped in a working area of three metres. Then he has to figure out that all the rips are lying symmetrical and in line, so that the sail still holds its designed shape. Then he has to stick them together with use of spray-glue and sticky Dacron. Normally spinnakers rip horizontal, but nine out of the ten times, the entire luff rips as well; and the luff is nearly 26 metres. When finally everything is glued together, you might think the job is finished, but then the real nightmare begins. Because the sail is wet, the sticky repair wouldn't last very long, so the sewing machine is coming out and the poor sailmaker has to feed all this metres through the tiny space of the machine's arm. Not only once, but four times, many, many hours of no sleep.

You can imagine his face, when we told him we blew it up again. The only good news is, that we now have a backup for the toilet paper shortage, which for some reason runs out quicker than in all previous legs. Very, very expensive toilet paper.

·Just went up to help with a jibe, the breeze starts filling in from the northwest, and all of a sudden we are moving again with 8.5 knots. The water rushing passed the hull sounds like music after hours of drifting and only the noise of flapping sails.

We are all very worried for the next sked. Like Dalts [Grant Dalton] can say so nice in his kiwi accent: "This one can be a 'f...g' ugly one for us." The leaders might have gotten this breeze hours before us, and that means game over, no way we can catch them back up, because they keep sailing into more pressure all the time. But News Corp and we were very close is the last position report, and that is the most important opponent for the moment. For sure we will have a fight with them until the finish.

And with this speed and the predictions for the next couple of days we might just have enough toilet paper, so the remainder of the spinnaker can be used for making bags and wallets.

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