We rose at 7am to prepare to race and reached the start line in good time for the 9.30 start without incident. It was fantastic to see the whole fleet congregating together. Some rivalries had already been developed prior to the race start (in the bar) and it was with great anticipation of putting some substance behind some of our brave comments that we hoisted the main and prepared to fight for a good start. But disaster struck as within a few seconds of hoisting, the main halyard came undone sending the rope to the top of the mast and allowing the sail to fall to the bottom of the mast.
Patrick was quick to issue instructions and fix the problem but despite a swift resolution, we started the race 10 minutes after the rest of the fleet at 9.40.Just prior to the start line we had hoisted our number 2 spinnaker. This was a nervous moment as we had only just had time to pack it and we also had not flown a spinnaker on Old Pulteney before but after our unlucky beginning all went well and we began to race.
As we chased after the back of the fleet we have put all of things that Patrick taught us over the past weeks to work, with constant sail trimming and focus on course and boat speed. To our delight Old Puletney has sailed fantastically and the good training has paid off. From the start we immediately started gaining on the fleet, within only a couple of hours we had overtaken five boats and were neck and neck with Henri Lloyd vying for sixth place. For a second time though, disaster struck. As we made preparations to gybe our asymmetric spinnaker we noticed that in our haste to recover from the poor start we had made a mistake and only attached one sheet. Yet again our great leader hatched a plan to save us! It sounded simple. We would attach John (that's me) to a harness and I would climb up the existing sheet to the clue of the spinnaker and attach another one.
"You can do this" were Patrick's parting words to me. Luckily he was right, the sheet was attached and we sailed on. Unfortunately though we lost some ground to Henri Lloyd in the process leaving us still in seventh place.
We have had no further incidents today, the wind has picked up and we are sailing well.
As time has progressed we haven't caught Henri Lloyd yet who are also sailing well but we have continued to gain on the rest of the fleet. As the race develops its hard to tell exactly but we believe we are now second or third.
Whilst the two lead boats are well ahead of us we know that in a short sprint like this one anything is possible and all on board are sailing for a win.
Tomorrow we will alter our heading away from the British Coast and towards France. For many of us this will be our first taste of really offshore racing. Ross the Aussie (and seasoned sailor) comment just now "you gotta know we wont experience real ocean swells 'till tomorrow" we all wait with nervous anticipation.