Jonny Malbon and Gringo should complete Transat Jacques Vabre qualifier in four days 15/5/07

Artemis Ocean Racing skipper, Jonny Malbon and his co-skipper Graham Tourell (Gringo) left Antigua on Saturday 5 May bound for Southampton, UK. The crossing – estimated at taking around 12 days – will serve as the duo’s qualifier for the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race starting from Le Havre, France, in November. Here’s Jonny’s latest log from Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing at a position 44 48.48N 37 08.36W on day 9 of the voyage. They have 1,450 miles to go and should be home in four days?

Good morning,

Awesome day yesterday, absolutely flying with full main and A6 (fractional spinnaker) and then 1 reef and A6? We were ‘smoking’! Breeze up to 29 knots for a while with a great sea state allowing some lovely long surfs of 25, 26, 27 knots for minutes at a time. Speed topped out at 28.5, and we were averaging 19, so all in all the best day on the water you could hope for. Pretty grey and miserable but who cares!

Just after dark the breeze dropped for a while, and then it came back; Up to 25 knots again. It was incredibly dark and we were flying blind down big seas at 25 knots. Pretty full-on when one of you is on deck and the other is trying to sleep. It is an amazing feeling sending yourself down a wave at pace, with no idea of where you are going to steer, how deep the trough is, and whether or not you are just going to slam in the one in front and turn the boat into a white wash.

The utter darkness was enhanced by incredible phosphorescence in the water. The rooster tail and wake coming off the back of the boat and from the rudders was a bright glowing green. The keel bulb, up to weather had its own trail which would have been pretty cool to watch for a while if I’d had time. There were dolphins screaming in through the water towards the boat that looked like torpedoes and even the white caps of the waves were gleaming.

Very beautiful but also pretty scary and full on. At one point during a surf of 25 knots, something hit the keel quite hard and threw me into the wheel. Bit of a shock but no obvious damage. Gringo poked his head up and checked I was ok, but we were off again at 20 odd knots. We also managed to get an unfortunate fish wrapped around the port rudder just before first light this morning. I had to hang off the back and try and flick it off with the boat hook, but no joy. In the end we decided to snuff the spinnaker and back the boat down (sail her backwards) to get the fish off. Perfectly reasonable plan, but as we were snuffing the chute, the bucket ripped off the spinnaker sock (very bad) and we had a bit of mess and a repair job on our hands – all because of a fish!

Anyway, we got the fish off and Gringo and I have spent the last couple of hours taking turns with the repairs to the sock which are now complete – and I have to say very good job. We will need that spinnaker tomorrow when the breeze builds again.

We have got into a cycle of steering, eating, sleeping, steering, eating, sleeping? As a result we are both feeling really tired now, and I was practically asleep at the wheel earlier on. The pilot does not handle the conditions very well so we are steering all the time. Both knackered and looking forward to getting in. We are however, loving every minute of this trip, and as Gringo mentioned, learning an awful lot. We have been pushing very hard, but we have to.

While I was in the sail bin this morning Gringo saw two massive sperm whales no more that three meters away, and also lots of dolphins.

We could be home in four days, so keep your fingers crossed? Downwind all the way – very tiring, but very fast. Looking forward to some sleep!

Cheers, Jonny