Robin Knox-Johnston picks up speed, he reports from Saga Insurance 18/12/06

Date of logSunday 17 December 2006
Miles To Fremantle1,952 nm
Distance In 24 Hours258.4
Average Speed In 24 Hours10.77 knots

Between noon and 1800 yesterday we covered almost two degrees of Longitude. It was fantastic sailing, surfing and then, when we hardened slightly, setting off on long rushes that peaked at 23 or so knots. It was far too noisy below, and alarming, so I enjoyed it on deck. The forecast said a front was due, Force 7 from the north becoming Force 7 from the west and then easing, so I was prepared as the wind rose. Had the usual problem with battens, caught behind the shrouds but managed to free that and get the third reef in before the front hit. In fact I had just exchanged the Solent for the storm jib when a wet and very windy squall struck. I am just glad the sail was reduced as we took off at high speed even with such limited sail set. Yet within 50 minutes the sky was clearing from the west and the wind easing and within two hours I had one from storm jib, through Solent to Jib and managed, with some difficulty, to let out the main to the second reef.

After that I could have done with a stiff noggin but sadly this is through unfortunate circumstances, temporally a dry ship. The wind came up later and I was stuck with more mainsail than I really wanted all night because of a broken batten, which had pinched a shroud. At this moment I have three broken battens on deck and no mainsail set whilst I try and sort out something that will at least stop this danger.

The problem is that these fronts don’t show the way they did 38 years ago. That may sound a bit odd, but back then a front did show. The barometer fell, as it did yesterday, and started to rise the moment the front was level, but I remember fronts as a long line of black towering cumulus cloud moving towards us, and the wind swinging from a light northerly to a South westerly gale in ten minutes and then blowing like that for 8-12 hours. I have not had a front like that this time at all. It’s been all miserable rain, poor visibility, the wind rising with the northerlies and easing very quickly once the front has passed. These fronts do not give such an obvious warning of their approach.

The memories of Conmdor and Enza are not so vivid so I do not remember what the fronts were like then. The waves too, seem smaller, but I suspect that is, in part anyway, because I was on a boat half the size, and also we are three months later in the season, so nearer midsummer. It is like comparing March with June.

Date of logSaturday 16 December 2006
PositionLatitude 45 53 South Longitude 070 29 East
110 miles north of the Kerguelens

Any thoughts of a faster run in from here went out the window today when three of the patched battens broke. The Rigg system has one major fault, it does not deal with the problem of chafe at the joins. I have one batten now where both the ends have come out both ways from the pocket and spent nearly an hour trying to free a runner from that little trap which meant the sail could neither go up nor down. Nor could it be gybed without tearing the pocket further. This was not the way to leave a major sail at nightfall, so getting it clear to drop if necessary was imperative so we were ready for anything after dark.

So far it has not mattered as the wind has swung back to the North-North-West and we are close hauled. I was setting up the spinnaker when this happened, in fact its sock was halfway up the mast when the wind veered quickly. No matter, the course is good and speed not bad. I am zigzagging eastwards at the moment, roughly around the Great Circle course to Fremantle. The wind is squally, with rain, but not the heavy rain, this is that light but drenching rain you get in Scotland. I would expect the wind to back to the west again before long and that is when the spinnaker goes up and the mainsail can come down for some tender loving care to its battens although quite what I am going to do I am unsure. I think I shall have to sacrifice the lowest one to use it to repair those higher up as the higher ones get more use.

The usual chores. Bale out the water that comes into the sail locker from somewhere. It’s not a lot, perhaps 6-10 gallons a day, but it’s annoying and I cannot see where it is coming in.