Manley Hopkinson, skipper of BT Global Challenge yacht Olympic Group, reports on his preparations for meeting Hurricane Michael:
‘If every day is as eventful as yesterday’s the voyage will fly by, but we will need two weeks’ sleep once we get in! Where to start?
‘Our tussle with Save the Children continues, though as you will see at the end of this piece, they have the upper hand at the moment. All day Tuesday, they went from one side to the other trying to pass, like passing a milk float on a Devon lane (there is a story there). Eventually, she went way to the west, bearing away and opened four miles on us. But her lead did not come from that, but rather from the events of the evening.
‘A stationary low pressure has been sitting some 300 miles to the south-west of us, which is one of the reasons we are this side of the fleet: we hope to get to the new wind first.. We said that if it remained stationary much longer it could develop into something nasty.
‘Sure enough, it went from being a tropical storm to Hurricane Michael. As we were heading south-west and he was heading north-east, for sure we were to meet the. 80-plus knots forecast.
‘The plan was to sail into it until the wind veered to the south as expected, or the winds become unworkable, then to tack out and make good towards the rhumb line and follow the veer round as it went westward. This was to have been last night.
‘The sky darkened and lightning could be seen in the distance all round. The wind slowly started to pick up and kick up an awkward sea. Here he comes.
‘Time to work through the wardrobe of sails. Give them all an airing. Down genoa, up yankee No 1, 1st reef, 2nd then 3rd. We were changing down slightly earlier than normal as the expected dramatic increase was just a few moments away. It was night now, with the moon partially obscured by very fast-moving clouds.
‘Time to change to the yankee No 2. The foredeck was covered with spray, with the occassional ‘greeny’ washing over.
‘A couple of big waves made it uncomfortable for the foredeckers, but it was still only 26 knots, gusting 30. As skipper, and helm at the time, there comes a point when you have to bear away to protect the crew, but you know that to do so will cost you many hard-earned miles. Not an easy decision, though crew safety always takes priority. Now was that time.
‘Unfortunately, one wave too late. Annee was swept along the deck into the guard rail and hurt her finger. A suspected fracture. Dr Bones has sorted her out and she is OK, but faces a few days’ light duties.
‘We were forced to bear away now. I helped on the foredeck, but no sooner had we hoisted the yankee No 3 at daybreak, when the wind subsided! What hurricane? Michael was taking the Micky. Sorry, poor pun.
‘Save the Children got away and now has a five-mile lead on us, and we dropped to 5th. But only for a short while.
‘Michael is still sitting there ominously, but now the wind has veered so we have tacked to rejoin the rhumb line. Our position is good as only Save the Children is south of us, so we will not lose out by going east. In fact, it should work very well. All part of the overall scheme. I like west, and south!
‘But that’s not all. A lot of water was noticed in the forward bilge. Once emptied, it refilled at a rate that needed close attention. By sequentially closing the drain valves between the watertight bulkheads we isolated the leak to the forepeak. A substantial leak.
‘Jungle and Moby opened the watertight hatch, securely bolted in place, and I squeezed through the hatch to inspect. The smell of paint in this claustrophobic space was strong. Sure enough, water was pouring in through a deck gland starboard side. Nothing too serious. Not the hull.
‘A good healthy squirt of Sikoflex, and temporarily the problem was solved. Large hurrahs for Sikoflex; it used to be oakum and tar.
‘So now we skim north of the Bahamas, downwind of the Pimms, G&Ts with a t