Race 2 start date! The days in Brest were spent putting the finishing touches on some of the jobs started in London and fine tuning a few things.
Doing work on the boat of which one can be proud of, not only gets the boat ready for sailing as good as possible, but also gives one a sense of ownership: Invest Africa is our boat. Of course the time was also used to help the Brest economy by spending more than a few Euros on coffees, croissants, launderettes, beer, wine and food (including some of the fantastic range of crepes on offer).
At the crew briefing yesterday we got some flavor of what to expect in the next three and a half weeks. Both Sir Robin and Race Director Justin said they want to get out there again and experience the beautiful sailing that awaits us. Also, the destination Rio itself promises many wonderful experiences, giving all the more reason to try and get there as soon as possible.
However, it won’t be easy going all the way. Looks like we may be getting what Skipper Rich describes as some “fruity” weather in the first few days or so mental preparation and sea sickness medication had to be considered. Justin showed impressive satellite of the Canary Islands, showing clearly how shelter big parts of the ocean from any wind. The pictures made it very clear that the wrong course decision can lead to sitting around without any wind for a long time. The doldrums were next on Justin's list of things we need to know. He told us what to expect, or more accurately what not to expect, namely wind. Both he and Sir Robin pointed out that the race could be win or lost, based on how teams deal with this challenge. Add a Scoring Gate, an Ocean Sprint and Stealth Mode to the equation, and it is guaranteed to be an interesting time ahead of us.
Compared to the Race Start in London, the start in Brest was much more low key, almost as if to reflect the feeling amongst many of the crew. This is the day when most of us will begin our first ocean crossing. Quite a bit of the excitement of the London start was replaced by anxiety and worry. The way the teams cheered each other as each team paraded on the pontoon gave all of us a bit more courage, and added a wonderful spirit to the start of the day. Soon the lines were slipped and off we went to do a Parade of Sail and start the race. The brightly coloured boats were like exclamation marks against the grey sea and sky.
We decided to go for the race start with only the main sail, with one reef is, and the stay sail. The Yankee 3 was ready on the deck to be hoisted as quickly as possible after the start. Already on our way to the starting line we had some waves coming over the deck: this was going to be a very different start from the London one. With such a long race in front of us, our skipper suggested that we break it up in more chewable pieces: first Brest to Cape Finisterre, then the Canary Islands, then crossing the Equator and finally going for Rio. He also made it clear that many of the important decisions will be made by the team.
Once on our way as the race started and on our way to Finisterre, the first reef came out, the Yankee 3 went up and attention was given to maintaining the best possible trim for our sails. We had lunch and went into our watches, with Thunder taking the first watch and Lightning going below deck for a somewhat shorter afternoon nap, before going on watch at six.
Nice strong winds moved us along quickly for a while, but as happens it dropped, and then started blowing again but from a different direction. Consequently the last hour of light was spent dropping headsails and putting up the heavy spinnaker. All of this being followed closely from the water by a couple of curious and playful dolphins.