Sir Robin contemplates the past and future on his last miles of the V5O - ETA 0400 local time 3/5/07

DateThursday 3 May 2007
PositionLatitude 44 34 North Longitude 006 20 West. About 60 miles north of the Spanish Coast
Distance to finish as at 1500140 miles

Sir Robin’s ETA to cross the finish line of the Velux 5-Oceans Race is currently 0400 Friday 4 May local Spanish time. He will arrive into Bilbao in daylight at approximately 0800 local Spanish time.

I tacked yesterday morning and then followed the wind round as it backed, slowly making up to the direct course for Bilbao. The seas were not pleasant, short and from the east, so we suffered for most of the day pounding into them. Whether the boat could have taken more punishment I don’t know, but I felt she was taking enough and waited until the seas eased before putting up more sail. We may be on a last chance against Unai, but no point in getting damage now. The decision as to who comes third overall is now more in his hands than mine. It is his to lose with just 200 miles separating us. It will be decided one way or another by Saturday evening in all probability. He has to finish within 41 hours and 3 minutes after me, which will be, as always, weather dependant. Still these are his waters, his influence over the weather is greater!

You’ll have to go to the Velux 5 Oceans website to find out what happens.
We crossed the main shipping channel between Ushant and Finisterre without incident, one ship even altering course to go round Saga Insurance’s stern, but I was on his starboard side, still nice that he did the right thing and saved me from a lot of manoeuvring. Then I managed to get a couple of hours sleep which was necessary as this is going to be a long day from here to the finish keeping Saga Insurance’s moving in very light airs.

A bird flew into the cabin last evening. Black on top, white underneath with a red/brown face – perhaps 8 inches across. I think he may still be aboard but if so he has hidden himself well. Attempts to photograph it failed as it would not stay still. Dolphins too, played around the boat for about ten minutes as we were crossing the Finisterre to Ushant traffic lane, nice to do it in daylight as the boat shows up better. Another jumped alongside the cockpit, and appeared to eyeball me at its level. I almost felt it was winking at me!

204 miles to go at 0100 GMT this morning and it had gone light and it looks like it might stay that way today. If I don’t get in tonight, my third night-time finish of this race, then it will be Friday morning and I’ll be a bit busy to write. So this may, or may not, be the last blog of this little episode in my life. It’s been worth doing, despite the frustrations with some poor workmanship and unreliable equipment, but we have slowly sorted most of that out thanks to Simon Clay and the team.

Everything is functioning except the Iridium phone and this has been a problem throughout. The two Lenovo computers are talking to each other happily. Satcom C has worked throughout and the problem with the Fleet 77 was mechanical and easily fixed once recognised. Computer programmes have turned out to be very fragile and prone to silly errors and have left me largely unimpressed. When they work they are brilliant, but a 33% operational availability is just not good enough. Once the wiring was soared out the Raymarine equipment has been fine and I love the combined multifunction radar and plotter. Power generation, with the Volvo MD40 has just not been a problem. It’s started every time and hums away happily?

We missed more preparation time before the start to sort out the problems we had and there is no doubt we could have done a much faster voyage with the boat as she is now. But we are where we are and still have these last few miles to tick off to complete the voyage. Without Saga Insurance’s support this voyage would not have happened, and they increased it as the voyage developed for which I am very grateful. Old Pulteney whisky coming on board is a delightful bonus. Amlin covered my insurance but I am saying nothing until the voyage is over, I’m a bit superstitious!

I don’t think age has played any part in the event. The others are a bit more elastic than I but that’s about it. My age group are, on the whole, pretty well off compared with a couple of generations before and I have always felt that my apprenticeship at sea made a big difference to me, it made me grow a strong body that was used to work and has stayed that way.

What next? Well after writing a book and having a rest, back to work at Clipper Ventures as we have our sixth around the world race for amateurs starting from Liverpool this September. Then I need to get out to India and see how Dilip’s project with the Indian Navy is coming along to be the first Indian to sail solo around the world. But who knows what idea or objective will suddenly spring to mind or what article or TV programme will create an urge to go and do something or see something.

For Saga Insurance after a short boat re-fit maybe we’ll race in the annual Round the Island Race (The Isle of Wight), along with 1,500 other boats and about 15,000 people. We might do Cowes week, or part of it and then maybe just one more race like the Jacques Vabre from Le Havre to San Salvador in Brazil, which is two handed. All subject to sponsorship! Then the boat gets sold or she might be sold sooner, sadly, because I have grown fond of her and she has looked after me well. But she is a Formula 1 racing machine, built for one purpose and not suited for day sailing or cruising. She certainly would not do ice and I am planning to go to Greenland with Sir Chris Bonington next year to finish off a mountain we failed before and that needs a heavier boat with a powerful engine.

Would I do this again? No. This was my last realistic chance to try and be competitive on the solo circuit and it has certainly sharpened me up but in four years time I do not see myself doing the Velux 5 Oceans race again. I do not feel a desire, like my good friend Minouru Saito, to go round solo again. He did it two years ago and is planning to go again at 74 years of age. If I go again it will be in a cruiser to see places I’ve enjoyed in the past and pothers I have always wanted to see, although the opportunity to make a Jules Verne attempt and get back the record Peter Blake and I won in 1994 is about the only thing that could interrupt that.

On balance I have enjoyed the sailing and always enjoy that feeling of freedom you get at sea, but been frustrated by little things in the racing. One of my happiest recollections is from the team supporting me for this venture and the camaraderie that has built up and those friendships will, I am sure, endure. And my worst memory, well apart from that awful period in the south Atlantic when the weather predictions were all over the place, the passage into the Beagle Channel.

Thanks for reading.