A tough 24 hours provides plenty of work for the Liverpool crew 15/7/06

It’s often said that boats communicate with their crew, and judging by the events of the last 24 hours,Liverpoolis beginning to want to go home. In the middle of the night before last the wind veered to the north, eventually settling at ENE Force 4. As a result the boat was close-hauled under full main, staysail and No. 1 yankee when the clew blew out of the yankee shortly after lunch.

A few hours later, after making some further progress to windward using first the No. 2 yankee and later the genoa, the wind died completely leavingLiverpoolrolling uncomfortably on the Atlantic swell making a maximum of 3 knots. After about three hours the breeze finally settled in the SSE, allowing us to hoist the 1.5oz spinnaker and get under way once again. Progress was good, making around 8 knots over the ground, but as the wind steadily built fate had other ideas. Just before midnight the top four metres of the spinnaker tore away from the rest of sail.

It’s hardly surprising that after over 30,000 miles of ocean sailing the sails on boardLiverpoolare beginning to feel tired; the entire boat is beginning to feel in need of a rest and some attention. It’s hardly a disaster either; in both cases the boat was sailing once again within 30 minutes, and in factLiverpoolis currently making good nearly 11 knots on a course of 070°T under the same 2.2oz kite that was hoisted directly after the other failed; exactly what we need to make the northing required to weather Ushant. Both sails are in the care of our sail repair team, and I can only admire the professional way they tackle any job, even though sewing the clew ring to the yankee is an arduous task which involves preparing each hole for the needle with a power drill.

Of more concern is the time wasted; in the 12 hours encompassing these crises, we made good only 63 miles. We haven’t received the figures for the rest of the fleet yet, but an e-mail fromSingaporerevealed they had made 50 miles on us, climbing from 139 miles behind. Of more concern are our closer rivals; with only nine miles between ourselves andNew Yorkat the last reckoning, we can only hope they experienced similar problems in their position approximately 130 miles north-west of us. As can be imagined, the entire crew ofLiverpoolis awaiting the news with bated breath.

At present we’re broad reaching across a band of fairly established south-westerlies thanks to a pursuing depression, but with the existing high over the UK the airflow becomes light and variable as you approach the Irish Sea before re-establishing in the north-east. However, the edge of the variable band is still over a day’s sail away and progressing eastwards thanks to the low pressure behind us, so hopefully we will be able to retain a favourable wind.

On a positive note, it’s really starting to feel like we’re making progress now. At the current rate we’ll be less than 1,000 miles from home before midnight tonight, and we’ve already crossed the 30°W longitude boundary to bring us within one time zone of the UK. Feeling are mixed among the crew; I’ve just been chatting to Peter Boyle, leader of starboard watch, and he admits to mixed feelings about returning home. “It’s going to be weird,” he said. “I’m going to call my girlfriend from Jersey and explain to her that I might be a bit odd to start with.”

Luckily for Peter, his work as a doctor means that the earliest date he can recommence work is in February so he will have a little time to re-integrate and wean himself off sleeping in the middle of the afternoon, but there’s definitely a slight element of apprehension about returning to normal life, especially among the round-the-world crew.