Lia Ditton, now just 140 miles from Class 3 Route du Rhum leader, with her latest log 16/11/06

Lia Ditton the young British sailor in Class 3 monohull in second place is continuing to hunt down the fleet leader Michel Kleinjans. Ditton who, less than a week ago, was over 300 miles behind has spent the last few days making significant gains and now, with 930 miles to go to the finish, she is just 140 miles away from Kleinjans.

Ditton sent her latest log from the boat this morning:

“The Code Zero is up, which is a cause for celebration as I have been somewhat reticent to hoist anything large and potentially overpowering since the kite-fishing/rudder/autopilot string of incidences. It is just a shame that I don’t have the wind pilot functioning. As the wind dances around shifting a few degrees this way and that, the autopilot set to “wind” would follow, thus keeping the sail trimmed to 132 degrees off the wind, for example. So there is instead a bit of sheet thumping; sail filling and flopping on deck. I can’t be at the helm all the time.

“Speaking of things which go ‘bump’ in the night – four times last night I went on deck to liberate misguided flying fish. It’s a pretty impressive flight to land on the deck of this boat and it must be a terribly frustrating death to beach inches from home waters on a moving vessel! I have dedicated one yellow Marigold to the purpose of tossing these winged creatures back into the sea. They are scaly and stink. You would have to be pretty damn hungry to boil one, but I’ve had them off the grill in the Caribbean in a sandwich, and they were quite tasty in a grilled-fish sort of way.

“For the second morning in a row, I fell asleep in the ‘greenhouse’. The ‘greenhouse’ is the nav station area, called so because of the seven windows in total, which span from port beam to starboard beam, with the eighth a round skylight looking up at the mast. Given the choice, I’m not sure I’d have windows at all, firstly for the safety factor [if one is broken…] and secondly because the light refracting through the window panes heats up the cabin during the day. Having said that, combine airlessness with a greenhouse climate and you have perfect dozing conditions for beautiful sleep. After a night on squall-alert, watching large blue and yellow shapes drift around on the radar screen, I could not have been more grateful.

“Two songs got stuck in my head on continuously loop today- ‘It’s the final count-down…,’ [I have only 1,000 miles to go!] and ‘The heat is on…’ [I am gaining miles on class leader ‘Roaring Forty,’]. Gearing up for a competitive run-in, I finally got energised and re-socked the “medium” spinnaker and tied wool round the Code O. When the thing was up, I would bust open the wool threads [which I did]. I decided to take no chances on a repeat of yesterday’s mid-hoist un-furl.

“I shall leave you with a taste of this evening’s sunset. Let’s just say that today was a good day.”