Lia Ditton who recently completed the OSTAR is now on the way back to the UK. Here's the first of her diary pieces aboard Shockwave, a 35ft trimaran

Lia Ditton who recently completed the OSTAR aboard Shockwave, a 35ft trimaran (see September issue of Yachting World) is currently in the process of delivering the yacht back to The Solent.
She left the United States last Thursday and, unlike the grueling race to Newport in June, is planning a couple of stops along the way.

Friday 19 August

“You can’t leave Cape Cod, without…” Debbie reached into her bag, “Cape Cod potato chips!” We all laughed. So as land slipped earlier out of view, it was to the sound not only of water rushing by, spray whooshing through the nets and raining on the back beam, but to a rhythmic crunch, crunch, crunch; pause, crunch, crunch, crunch. Luckily Debbie had purchased a Bonus Pack (33 per cent more, free) because passing Cape Cod with the breeze coming beautifully from the east (the direction I wanted to go) consumed nearly the entire morning.

Most of the competitors of the Faraday Mill OSTAR 2005, which left Plymouth, England for Newport, America on 29 May this year, parked their vessels or executed a speedy turn-around. The idea of sailing back immediately on my submarine ride; Shockwave, for another four solitary weeks of dousing, did not muster the same appeal.

Not wishing to be running away from a hurricane with my name on it, when it comes to motivation, the formation of tropical cyclone, Irene, in the Caribbean could not have worked any better. “I don’t know, Lia,” joked Rob Gale, my Canadian friend with a wicked sense of humour, “You dodged the bullet once… But then we didn’t think you’d make it the first time, and you did…!” It was into the wake of Hurricane Irene, that I ventured yesterday.

If the previous paragraph sent you frightened off to check the hurricane track of Irene, you will be delighted to hear about the additions to my survival wardrobe. Without the superstructure provided by the race, where in extreme circumstances it may be possible to divert another competitor, I decided that an immersion suit, a kind of over-everything wetsuit to retain body heat, might be an advisable accompaniment to my grab bag. The immersion suit, appropriately branded ‘The Imperial Penguin,’ let’s be frank, is not a flattering item of clothing. I was therefore quite grateful (oh vanity, vanity!) that there was not another sole in Liferaft & Survival Inc. when the shop assistant, who turned out to be a Sea-Survival training instructor, had me on the floor under instruction, attempting to wriggle into ‘The Imperial Penguin.’

One size may fit all, but wrestling into a neoprene sack with three-finger mitts, over the top of foul-weather gear, especially in the water, would definitely be a sight to behold. As you can imagine, Sea-Survival courses, aside from their importance, never fail to be entertaining.

‘Warm. Dry. Northerner.’ Is the slogan of the ‘Northerner Max’ boot in Army camouflage green, that I picked up at the Commercial Fisherman’s store, IMP, in New Bedford, Mass. Perfect I thought for ‘wilderness people’ I had never thought of myself previously as a wilderness person, until I happed to be on the Matapoissett town dock beside a Sports Fishing boat, where its owner was rhetorically expounding the virtues of GPS for ‘wilderness people’.

While I was sitting in my friend Andy Dare’s downstairs loo, two weeks ago, I happened to glance through a book left open, entitled Total Loss. “Ah! An excerpt from the 1988 OSTAR,” I read, flicking through the pages. To my horror, Peter Phillips’ trimaran, also 35ft, had broken up and sunk within the space of half an hour. Any notion that glass-foam-glass construction multihulls would float upside down was suddenly, quite literally, turned on its head. “Yeah and that’s what they said about the Titanic,” my brother smirked. I had this sudden feeling of dread.

My liferaft was a cheap off-the-shelf four-man raft, intended for coastal racing! Something was wrong. The raft had inflated but the second bladder was particularly soft. “Do you think it has a hole?” I asked the liferaft specialist who was blowing it up before my (concerned) eyes.

“No, faulty valve,” the chap seemed unperturbed handing me the valve cap which had broken off. Apparently the valves were a product recall on this particular raft. Product Recall? Product Recall? Lia recall is alas not as simple as a new valve.

Choosing Wallmart, otherwise known affectionately as Wally’s Mart or ‘Wally’s World,’ by Americans, over West Marine [a US chain of chandlery] is not a difficult option for the ocean traveller on a shoestring. Plus, in West Marine, you wouldn’t have passed an isle of L-shaped polystyrene-bean bag cushions for $18, in survival orange. ‘For my liferaft,’ I chuckled with Debbie Druan [who raced the Formula 40 Toshiba for 9 years]. Coined the ‘Survival Sofa it’s a little small but then so is the cockpit. The ‘Survival Sofa’ of course occupies the whole cockpit, and must be clambered over in its traverse.

Despite the gadgetry (in an attempt to a better ‘quality of life’ aboard Shockwave) and executive toys littered currently around the cabin, there are moments (like now), when I peer over the edge of the stretcher bunk to watch the water swish fore and aft on the cabin sole, that I think, “Are you out of your mind?” I can’t believe I am doing this again. Then there are other moments, like crawling out of the cabin this morning at 0530, just as the sun broke out amidst a crimson smudge, or yesterday [Thursday] when I accelerated away from the waving arms of friends, David Steele and Abraham Treadwell, that an uncontrollable note of excitement escaped my lips. The call of adventure; the thrill of the chase, entices me to want to be out here again and again. Simultaneously the very thought of it scares me to death. The race this time is not among a group of fellow multihullers, sponsored by an industrial estate named Faraday Mill, but a race against the weather.