Read Yachting World Features Editor Elaine Bunting’s first report, filed straight from the navigation table of Mike Golding’s Ecover, during the first leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge
It’s been a peculiar first night aboard Ecover. We left St Malo behind reluctantly, mainly because the we got ensnared on the final turning mark before heading offshore. We were pouring down to it when the rug was pulled from under us, the wind died and the tide set us onto to it. Nigel and Graham walked it round; a 720 was less punishing than than trying to get uptide and back round it.
Before we could even attempt the our penalty, though, we’d made it two in a row and wrapped a lobster pot line round the keel. Fortunately we were still wallowing with no wind and the backing, filling and cutting manoeuvres formed part of the 720.
Visibility worsened in the night, with grey thundery clouds hanging over the moon. Bands of wind came and went from a variety of directions, interspersed with more of those holes. It has meant a merry dance of sail changes overnight; 15 or more as the spinnaker has been changed for the Code 5, then for the gennaker, then back to the Code 5, the spinnaker… And so it went on. We even managed a reef this morning as we came on the wind after passing Cap de La Hague, on the Cherbourg Peninsula, but it that was barely in when the wind did it again and evaporated.
What it also meant was that Miranda’s off-watch sleep kept being interrupted. She volunteered to sleep on sail bags in the sail bin; there are only windward bunks for two and there are three on our watch. “It was a good sleep,” she commented this morning, “but my bed kept getting thinner and thinner or disappearing.”
But the night and early morning did give us some intermittently fast sailing. This morning at first light we were passing south of Alderney under full main and spinnaker and tanking along at 18.8 knots against only a slight head sea, water occasionally hosing back across the chainplates. You can feel the boat thrum at these speeds, as if charged by an electric current. The power is immense and unmistakable.
Now, we are close to the shipping lanes. The visibility is still poor and very murky. We can see a line of four ships, the closest of which is about a mile, and it’s time to keep a sharp watch.