Jonny Malbon and Gringo enjoy bronco ride on Open 60 Artemis during TJV Atlantic qualifier 14/5/07

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 which should take 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 Gringo’s latest log from Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing at a position of 42.00N 45.19W on day 8 of the voyage?

Blimey, where shall I begin? It’s a little tricky to write this as I’m sitting on a bucking bronco. We are currently sailing at 22-25 knots with full main and the chicken chute (small spinnaker) in 26 knots of wind, and let me tell you, it’s wet!

Since Jonny’s last blog. We had a great evening’s sailing, knocking off a load of miles with the big kite, and putting big smiles on our faces. Now as Jonny pointed out, we set our limit at 20 knots of wind for taking that sail down and moving down to the next sail down… Unfortunately, we decided to push the envelope a little and see if we could squeeze a little more out of the boat.

About 10 hours later, and two million gallons of water over the deck, we had what is commonly known in the trade as a massive wipeout! It was pitch black outside and raining. Generally pretty miserable. The sea state had picked up nicely, giving us some nice surfing conditions, and the breeze was up to 26-28 knots (only just outside our limit). The boat then took off down a wave, with the autopilot steering, and then started to come up into the wind. I switched the pilot off and tried to bear away, but it was too late, the rudder had stalled. Bang. Over we went, clean on our side. Sails in the water, me hanging off the wheel, standing on the side wall of the cockpit; and Jonny pinned in his bunk covered in scalding hot tea which I had just made!

It seemed like we were on our side for about 10 minutes, but it was probably closer to two! Jonny came up on deck in a flash (of steaming hot tea), and we quickly set about getting up and running again. Jonny eased the spinnaker sheet as I eased the main, and slowly the boat spin round and came up. It was very disorientating because we couldn’t see anything to give us any bearing (stars, clouds, horizon etc) and the sails were making a hell of a noise as they flogged. Anyway, I managed to bear away, and with Jonny on the sheet, we managed to get control pretty quickly, and head on our merry way without so much as a scrape, or a blown kite… phewwwwww!

Once up and going again, with everything settled down, Jonny started organising below deck, as it looked like the Baghdad Hilton. And I tidied the cockpit up. After discussing the pros and cons of the conditions, we both decided we should keep plugging on for a while. We felt in control, and we were knocking good miles off the clock.

Two hours later… bang! Same again? same story. This time we thought we were maybe pushing our luck, so we squeezed the kite, and changed for the A6, or chicken chute. This kite is approx 100 sq m smaller than the big kite, but at the same time it is still a mean sail weighing in at 250 sq m.

It wasn’t too funny at the time, but after we were settled again, we did have a chuckle… It was a case of “I think that was pushing it a bit?” But, at the end of the day, this is what we’re out here to do. This is our qualification for the TJV at the end of this year, and we’re gonna need to push the boat as hard as possible without breaking it. So far this trip, myself and Jonny have already learned a lot about the boat, and how she performs in different conditions. Also we’ve made a lot of notes on our sail crossover chart, performance data, and general settings. More importantly we’ve learnt a great deal about ourselves and working together as a team, and I’ve got to tell you, we’re having a blast doing it, and loving every minute.

I’m sure there will be more wipeouts, and I’m sure the occasional sail will perish. But if it gets us a good result at the end of this year, it will be worth every penny, along with the blood, sweat and tears?

Cheers, Gringo