Mother nature has finally dealt Ariel, our yacht in the Clipper '98 round the world race, a bum hand.

Damn and blast. Mother nature has finally dealt Ariel, our yacht in the Clipper ’98 round the world race, a bum hand. Maybe it was all going too well. We had, in the words of Ted Turner, “got in the lead and extended” and at lunch time yesterday were a comfortable 18 miles ahead of our nearest rival Antiope on our route south to Colon at the mouth of the Panama Canal.

At around 2000 local, as Marjorie and Colin were about to serve up a magnificent fish pie based on the tuna which we caught earlier, we saw two large rain squalls and, tracking them on the radar, tried our best to weave our way around them. Oddly they seemed to be converging and as we sailed between them we fell into a huge hole.

After 30 minutes trying to regain steerage, we made some progress sailing 4 miles down the leeward edge of the squall on the port side. Then nothing again. Now, 6 hours on, we are still becalmed.

The Windex is dizzy pirouetting at the masthead. The mainsail and windseeker (a light weight flat headsail) are flapping aimlessly as the boat lollops around.

Occasionally we get a breath of wind and try to head towards it to up the apparent: Anything to get the course over the ground off rock bottom 0.0. With each puff, Richard, our blind crewman and resident weather cock, sticks his arm out to point to where the wind is coming from. But moments later it vanishes and we’re back to square one. Kim, on the windseeker sheet, is snoring lightly. Robin is so bored he has resorted to Game Boy. Tim our watch leader stomps around on deck, muttering the word “spinnaker”, but he knows it’s futile. It’s Mother Nature’s call. Meanwhile the moon has come up showing an ominous dark line of cloud off to the east and the radar confirms more squalls building 12 miles away. Still we wallow our cigarette smoke rising vertically.

At the midnight radio sched we found out Antiope had caught up to within two miles of us. They are 30 miles to the west and we are more than concerned that they may still have the breeze even though we have heard over the radio that other boats behind them have fallen into the same hole as us. The fleet has concertinaed and 91 miles home straight to Colon will see the race start all over again – if we ever extract ourselves from this f@@@@g hole.