It's not long now to Cape Town and everything's running out - except our determination, says skipper Eero Lehtinen
I hope we are in the last week. And I’m afraid we are on the last gas bottle, the last batten, the last fresh bread (no more gas for baking), the last jokes and the last set of underwear.
It has been a long way, in miles, days and even more so in any measure of personal strength, both physical and mental. But it just is unbelievable how these so-called amateurs drive this boat. The ongoing discussion is focused on VMG waypoint, best apparent wind angle, enough or too much power, time for another change, reef in/reef out, making tack, and so on… If one is losing it, the others rush for support and encouragement. No one’s left out or ignored.
Today we have been gaining nicely on our arch rival just ahead of us, Barclays. As we got within 8 miles of them, a heavy front got to us, just a bit too suddenly and we were left with too powerful a sail plan up: yankee number two, big staysail (already repaired four times) and full main? then 40 knots of wind. Oops!
The wounded staysail came down first, still in one piece this time. Then the main came down for a couple of reefs but the reef lines decided to form a nice flower at the end of the boom, getting all stuck. So down comes the whole sail to clear the reef lines, then back up to reef one as wind is already easing only to realise that batten number 4 is now broken.
Back down to bottom reef, tools out and we make the spare batten into correct length, etc. We practised this already on leg 3, so no problems. In the middle of the batten show the wind decides to head us by 80 degrees. It’s time to tack. The boat is going really slowly, now with only yankee no 2 and third reef, in confused seas and dropping wind. The storm staysail has been hoisted in the meanwhile, but we would need to get the big ones out again. Main goes up, change the staysail, what about number one? And the show goes on.
Time will show how badly we lost. Obviously this front has visited all the boats but we didn’t do a good job this time. I mean we ended up in trouble, but getting out of the trouble was a great show from this strong team. I was just looking at some of them in action, the same people who had told me on leg one that they were getting frustrated because they didn’t really know what to do on deck. They definitely didn’t seem frustrated or jobless today!
Anne Philipsson, one of our core crew and one of five girls on board on this leg, was just everywhere, working like a machine. No complaints, no worries or doubt – just pure action to get us up to speed again. Awesome stuff. I went down below to send my bank details and other information to my wife, who’s desperately trying to close a deal on a house in Cape Town. That’s how much I am needed here.
The week ahead looks like possibly rather fast sailing, first hard on wind (on port), then a slowly opening angle and within a couple of days spinnaker running until it’s time to gybe! MaxSea routeing suggests that we have just tacked for the last time before Cape Point.
I have my reservations about that, but it sounds nice anyway. There is a massive high squeezing between us and our destination later on this week – we’ll have to see if that could possibly ruin the leaders’ leg at the last minute and give us something to look forward to. Or will it let the leaders in for cold beers while we get parked outside of Cape of Good Hope. Hope not – the parking, I mean.
But sooner or later, we’ll get there.
Eero Lehtinen, skipper SAIC La Jolla