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Race 1 - Day 4

Invest Africa - Simon Dixey

04 SEP 2013 - Race 1

In which Watches are named, Natalia has an early bath, fog descends and a number of flappy white things go up and down.

It's lunchtime on day 4 since race start, but only day 3 of the race. It's also about 3 weeks since the majority of round the world crew and a number of the leg one crew first got together to tackle vital issues such as extensive work on the inside and outside of the boats, sorting out sails, getting all the food bought and stowed – and, most importantly, thinking up names for our two watches. We are 20 crew plus the Skipper (and, for race one only, our Journalist – say 'hi' to David). We divide ourselves into two teams who alternate in sailing the boat, or being 'off watch' – usually catching up on sleep. It's customary to come up with names for the two watch teams, but it was not until yesterday that we finally came to a decision. Top contenders included Gin and Tonic, Dark and Stormy, Rum and Coke (is there a theme there?) but in the end we voted on Thunder and Lightning.

At this point I will introduce myself – I'm Simon (waves) – and have the honour of being Watch Leader for Lightning Watch on Leg One. My opposite number on Thunder Watch is Graham. Other members of Lightning include Carlolus (ships engineer), Craig (Bosun – he has a tool for everything), Helen (chief organiser and permanent marker addict) and Natalia (rig monkey and all round action girl). I will hopefully have a chance to introduce the others later on in the Leg,  but they will all appear on these pages in due course as blog authors.

Progress to Brest has been slow but steady, as we had expected from pre-race forecast information. Light and variable wind has been the predominant condition. For the last 24 – 36 hours, each watch has carried out several evolutions between headsails (called Yankees on these boats), light or medium weight asymmetrics (a type of spinnaker) and the Windseeker (or Windsurfer as Thunder Watch member Andrew calls it – happy Brithday Andrew, by the way :) ). These are mostly large, clingy, wet things that have to be folded up (or, in the case of spinnakers, tied up with wool) and then put into bags in the sail locker so that the opposite watch can take them out again and hoist them. And so the day goes. The serious point of all this is to keep our boat speed maximised and constant despite the small amount of wind. This, we hope, will lead to a good result in the race finish.


This morning we got up to find ourselves shrouded in fog. Its a weird

sensation sailing along in our own private inverted bowl of steam. From

time to time we can hear a ships fog horn  coming from somewhere. Thank

goodness for radar and AIS …


During the course of the morning we sailed through a small Sargasso sea of

weed, which clung lovingly to our rudders. This not only makes it harder to

steer, it also slows us down by half a knot. Fortunately, we have a device

specially designed to remove seaweed from rudders – allow me to reintroduce

Natalia, our all round action girl. Scarcely had the problem arisen than

she appeared on deck fetchingly decked out in shorts, t-shirt and a

climbing harness. (Health and Safety monitors will please note that she did

have her life jacket on). The free spinnaker harness was brought aft and

Natalia lowered into the briny. It was the work of a moment for her to pull

the clumps of slimy string from around the rudderstock allowing us to

proceed unimpeded.


Well, that is all for now – and probably the last blog from this race as a

shortened course has just been announced and its all hands to make best

possible speed to the finish ….


Simon Dixey