Skipper Sir Robin Knox-Johnston makes good use of his Rioja Saga in Velux 5 Oceans 3/11/06

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston aboard Saga Insurance is in fifth position 3231 miles from the finish of the Velux 5 Oceans race. He gave this report yesterday:

“The wind had risen as it veered south-east, Force 5. OK with the second reef, then Force 6 and gusts higher, on to the third reef. Then it got silly and in a rain squall reached Force 8. Set the storm jib, but the wind eased so I left the Solent set. Big mistake, the next squall, accompanied by blinding rain, which created a white-out, hit 49 knots. This was no place for a gentleman nor a boat with so much sail, so the Solent was rolled when the wind fell to 33 knots.

All these expensive weather files – but none predicted this particular little nasty. The weather has been decidedly unfriendly since the start and I am still 5,000 miles from the Southern Ocean. The North Atlantic gets silly about November and is no place for small boats. This lost us a bit of distance but also has pushed me so I must go east of Madeira now, which I didn’t want as the winds will be less favourable there.

Thus encouraged, I became worried about the shaking going on in certain bottles and went below to check. Indeed there was a problem, serious evaporation appears to have taken place and the cabin smelt like a distillery. Corks are notoriously porous! Clearly my very limited stocks of whisky have to be conserved. Checking around, I found a whole lot of bottles hidden. Despair and delight! It was not whisky, but some very good Rioja given to me by my good friend Jose Luis Ugarte. This went extraordinarily well with Spanish bread, onions and cheese, but the secret ingredient to add is gentleman’s relish. I would not have exchanged my repast for the Savoy Grill, but don’t put that to the test!

This generation of Finot-designed boats have ballast tanks. I filled the windward forward one via its scoop and the pounding reduced immediately. Under storm jib and triple-reefed main we are now making about 6-7 knots. To go faster would cause potential damage so I’ll wait for things to ease and then get racing again. The wind is still steadily above 30 knots apparent. The windex has blown off. This is the second to depart in two weeks. I’ll miss it in the Doldrums. Why can’t they make a nuclear-proof one? The silly little aluminium stems just sheer off. I need something made in stainless.

An attempt to get online again failed owing to the motion and the dropping voltage. Fleet 77 uses a lot of power and when you spend 20 minutes trying to get through you quickly drop the voltage. It was having trouble connecting so the boat’s motion was not helping. In any case it was after 1700 so the APP TV office would have closed. Back to survival with a clear conscience! The boat is bashing quite a lot but we are heading west-south-west – which is almost where I want to go.”