A frustrating start to the day for Port Watch, coming up on at 00.00 on Weds. No wind, bad visibility and little steerage. In the course of tightening up the main sheet, a large bang was heard: by forgetting to loosen the preventer we'd managed to lift and bend a steel fairlead - a useful lesson in double-checking that all winches are being manned.
8am, back on deck again and fuelled by bacon sandwiches. Some wind now, enough at times to make satisfying gps speed of over 10 knots, but still with wind holes and the slightly sinking feeling of wondering whether they would be large enough to becalm us altogether. By this point GREAT Britain (having led the fleet for the first day and then falling back to around tenth) was lying somewhere in the middle of the fleet, still in with a chance, and conditions meant great experience of, and practise, with tactical helming and navigation to gain those all-important increases in speed of one or two knots. Sadly, the background noise to the watch were the maydays and search-and-rescue messages coming through the VHF: a light plane came down off Jersey at around 6am, with two people missing.
Snatching a nap in off-watch, we were woken at 2pm and told to come back on deck. Due to the light winds, the race course had been shortened and the finish was now 1500 UTC. We were now in with a chance of coming in the top three - and suddenly we're all in race mode. Gybing through the fog, other boats around but invisible, fog horns sounding mournfully. Somewhere just behind us was Qingdao and every trim, every gybe, every second counted.
With 20 mins to go before race end, Qingdao suddenly loomed out of the fog behind us less than 100 metres away. Five minutes to go to race end and with Qingdao chasing on the starboard aft around 70 metres behind, we had to bear away to steer clear of rocks. The spinnaker began to collapse....and then it was 15.01 and the race had finished. We think we came second, third or fourth; placings will be confirmed in a day or two. For a crew that has never sailed together before, we're very happy. We celebrated with "Three Cheers", and a cup of tea and a biscuit.