Eero Lehtinen - skipper aboard Team SAIC La Jolla - with the latest news from the front of the Global Challenge fleet
Those who’ve taken a quick look at the weather files on internet will probably be thinking that we are enjoying a steady 15-20 knots spinnaker run, sun tanning our almost perfect bodies and zipping an icy sundowner on the deck. Well… close. It’s just that the wind is most of the time exactly behind us making the decision on making gybe almost a joke.
Gybing these boats occupies a full morning shift of a tractor factory and even with a bit of exercise and routine by now it takes a good 20 minutes to complete the manoeuvre. When wind is up to 25 knots as it has been most of the time the last 36 hours, driving becomes quite a sweaty job – especially when two poles are up and mainsail is being centered.
Part of the sweating happens from physical exercise (I think I will have a neck and arms like Senator Arnie by the end of this leg) the rest is purely fear. Fearing that the boat goes out of control, dips the pole, crash gybes the main, shreds the spinnaker and possibly gets someone injured. But naturally we never see that happening… Honestly the line between under and out of control is so fine that it’s impossible to say how close we have been, but close anyway. Most of the time we feel that we are either on the wrong gybe or we should drop the kite, and when it’s down we feel that we should go for the hoist. Last time I had a relaxed sleep was probably 5 days ago! Oh yes, and we don’t have gin or tonic onboard, neither any refrigeration. And, as a matter of fact, our bodies are perfect…
Tactically we have given up on our long lasted “western approach” and interestingly the boats that were holding the more radical eastern plots have now moved furthest west. I am slowly getting a picture that some boats just don’t want to be where the others are, but we don’t mind as long as they are not much faster.
We joined BP for a close ride together through last night after first shaking Me To You and Spirit of Sark off our heels as they were under poled out yankees while we and BP were rolling away with flankers. We were delighted to find out that our on the edge flanker performance was good enough to pull away from the so-far-race-leaders through all night and morning. Then BP had a problem with their spinnaker halyard blocks (thanks for warning us for it, we have had same problem but we discovered it before anything broke and changed the shackle at the mast top) and we pulled away a bit more. Then we gybed and they continued into a heavy rainy patch and we lost contact. But since then we have had a 32kn squall, a panic kite drop, a lull, hoist again, three gybes and some other little activities, so who knows who’s been gaining since then. We are anyway very focused, loving the close racing and very proud of our great performance so far. We have no intention to lose focus or slow down until we are pumping fenders in Boston Harbour. Whatever King Neptune has got to offer for us after Equator is another issue. We trust that good sailors have good luck. Last time (leg one) we didn’t and lost our lead, we are still bitter about that and hence we only brought two rookies with us this time to cool of Neptune’s party at the crossing.
By the way, it’s slightly warm on board. Sea water was 28 degrees yesterday when the thermometer failed on our B&G instruments, inside with oven, stove and generator in use the temperature rises to mild sauna conditions. And it’s only getting warmer still.
Bye for now