British offshore yachtsman Sharp comments on the AG2R onboard Atlantik 25/4/08

Jersey-based Briton Phil Sharp is competing against some of the most experienced French sailors in the business, in the 3,700 mile double-handed
Transatlantic race the AG2R.

Signs of tiredness have started to show for race competitors, as the 26 teams continue to fight for position in strong winds. Onboard Atlantik, Sharp and co-skipper David Krizek have had little respite, enduring a punishing routine. Last night the duo were enjoying 13th place, half-way up the fleet, showing that their westerly route could have helped them. Overnight their position has slipped a little, but after 6 days of very close racing, there is still only 44 miles between them and the leader. 3,056 miles to go?..

Phil reported: “David and I seem to be settling into the groove with things now as we are starting to find the right balance between sailing, navigating, sleeping and eating. Incredibly there is no time for anything else until literally now when I’ve sat down at the computer to write this update. I have been averaging about 4 hours sleep enough which is just enough to see you through the day although David said he got a fright when he couldn’t wake me this morning despite shouting into my ear seven times!”

“The first couple of days of the race were full on to say the least as we screamed across Biscay power reaching under spinnaker the first night and then battled upwind around Finisterre, from which my socks have still not dried out. We are getting to grips with level of competition we are facing which is noticeably higher than previous offshore classes I’ve races in. I like to think we are upping the pace every day since there is loads we are learning about this one design Figaro.”

“I am definitely finding sailing two-handed offshore so far more enjoyable than solo. Not only are you without the isolation, it makes a huge difference in that you can properly switch off for some proper rest from time to time with the confidence the boat is been driven by capable hands, not some bag of temperamental electronics that decides to tack or gybe the boat when it feels like it. David and I are motivating each other quite well and had some good laughs despite a pretty gloomy period after Finisterre when we sailed across a 20-knot weather front only to find absolutely no wind the other side and saw our position slip down to 19th.”

“There was no real set pattern in the weather after Finisterre due to the presence of a big high pressure system west of Portugal, and it seemed like a lottery where to position ourselves on the way down to Madeira. A lot of the fleet went way over to the Portuguese side but we’ve been one of the more westerly boats. Now it seems to be starting to pay off and we have climbed up through the fleet to 13th. Sopra Group is our next target, although after four days of racing we are still only 33 miles behind the leader so anything is still possible. The mood on board is positive now and we’ll be treating ourselves to a slice of French saussison for lunch, whoopee. Lunch is a special treat as we don’t seem to have enough rations on board to appreciate this daily – even after dinner I am hungry enough to be licking the inside of the food bags, and have contemplated what tea bags would be like to eat.”

“Aside from food, (writing about this really isn’t helping combat hunger), another big highlight was seeing a whale near the boat last night. At the time everything was very quiet, in only 5 knots of wind, so it came as a bit of a shock to see this huge fountain of water erupting out of the ocean – seemed he was coming to have look at why this small boat was doing pretty much stationary miles from anywhere. Anyway now the pace has picked up a bit, we have wind, spinnaker and sun, and there has even been time for a bit of iPod action. It looks as though it’ll be all downwind to Madeira so we are looking forward to more T-shirt sailing and picking off some more positions. Onwards and upwards!”