Race 15 - Day 4
Greetings from the North Sea!! We have sailed over the top of Scotland!! Having come all this way to see John o' Groats in comfort - unlike most people, who walk or cycle hundreds of miles to see it - we managed to pick the three hours of daily darkness that you get up here in the far north in summer. So all we saw was the Duncansby Head lighthouse, and the looming headland just visible through the gloom. It was a pretty eventful transit, as, despite our strenuous efforts to sail just that little bit faster, we arrived at the Pentland Firth just as the tide turned against us. With the spinnaker up and drawing nicely, we were charging at over eight knots through the water, but less than two over the ground, as the notorious tide, which can run at over 10 knots, pushed firmly against us.
With Dare To Lead and GoToBermuda in close company, we gybed back and forth across the narrow channel between the mainland and the Orkney Islands. Although we were always making some easterly progress, it was painfully slow, and, as the dark shadows of the land, and the various off lying rocks seemed, by a trick of the eye right next to us, quite nerve wracking. Throw in a couple of downpours, accompanied by their dramatic windshifts, and the ingredients for a smooth and easy passage were not really there.
Still, the crew, with several just getting over their early seasickness, manned up well, and executed every one of our 14 million gybes perfectly. The thrill of being in this special place was not lost on anyone, and as dawn broke there was a real sense of accomplishment around the boat.
So now we start the challenging job of dodging the many oil rigs and wind farms, and catching the leaders. The front pack managed to sneak through the firth with the tide, and managed to stretch their lead significantly. There promises to be plenty of wind holes between here and the finish in the Thames Estuary, so all is not lost and everyone is up for the challenge. We do need to dodge several wind farms and oil platforms, which will keep everyone on their toes.
A Visit Sanya, China blog wouldn't be complete without the mention of birds, and we actually managed to run one over in the pre-dawn gloom. A gannet had presumably been snoozing on the surface when our bulk came over him. There was a lot of disgruntled squawking as it tried to gather its thoughts before flying angrily, awoken but unharmed, out of our wake.
Till next time,
Jai Yo Sanya
Mike, Mary and our gybe-tastic crew