Yachting World Deputy Editor David Glenn reports from on board Bols SPort

Dateline 2/12/99 Position 10deg 5.00S 35deg 23.29W

We are now in the final phase of this race closing the Brazilian coast and just 233.8 nm from our next waypoint which is within 20 miles of the finish at Salvador da Bahia. The yacht club there says it is laying out the red carpet for us as we should have smashed the record for this passage by at least two days.

We’ve spent the last 48 hours tracking squalls on the radar and trying to manoeuvre ourselves into their path. They are coming in on the 17-20 knot tradewind and tend to increase wind speed by at least 10 knots on their leading edges. Heavy rain washes out the cockpit detritis which accumulates at an alarming rate overnight. The rain also provides much needed showers for 16 crew who are, well, shall we say need a change of clothing. Boat speed during these squalls has topped 16 knots.

We’ve been knocking out 270 days with ease and are currently close reaching under full main and jib top 3 averaging 11 knots. We had a bit of kite work last night but it didn’t last long and it looks as though we will be denied the blast under 1.5oz asymmetric we’ve been hoping for which could produce 25 plus knots of boat speed.

There have been 50 sail changes so far on this race which is a five a day average. There is no doubt for me that the most unpleasant job aboard (apart from unblocking the heads) is woolling spinnakers in the cramped conditions below where the temperature must be well over 100degF. We should be drinking 8 lt of water per head per day but we don’t and after a packing session the need increases. Finishing a 1.5lt bottle after a pack is almost a one gulp operation.

We are also getting about 1.5 knots of Brazil current up our transom which just about puts the icing on the cake. Quite glad to be down below at the navstation/internet cafe as it’s blistering on deck. Had to stop the boat completely this morning while our skipper jumped over the side to check a possible fouled prop but fortunately all was okay.

There’s definitely a bit of a de-mob happy atmosphere on board as weapproach the end of this race. For me the most remarkable thing is how well this crew has worked together. As far as I can tell (Polish isn’t easy to grasp) there have been no ‘disagreements’ and if there is any sign of boredom skipper Gordon Kay rapidly finds things for people to do – coil that halyard tail, stack another sail, put that book below (reading only allowed off watch), even take the helm. There is no doubt that grasping one of this yacht’s steering wheels as she ploughs through the cobalt blue south Atlantic (I’m assured that the sea IS another colour down here) is one of the most exciting experiences. Her progress is effortless but the speed log tells a story that most other yachts in this fleet and indeed the ARC can really only dream of.

Other ABC yachts

Menno Haas decided that there was more to life than his top executive position with Proctor and Gamble Europe so after taking up sailing just five years ago he decided to take a sabatical. Basically he wants to be back in Holland by July 2000 but at the moment he is enjoying some neat reaching aboard his Contest 46 Alegria.

She’s a beautifully appointed yacht, very comfortable with an excellent deck saloon. “This is the first time I have done anything like this,” said a beaming Menno when I spoke to him in the Cape Verde islands, “but I wanted an adventure.” He intended to do the ARC but when the ABC was offered he decided that the passage to Brazil might be more interesting. At the moment it is probably proving to be faster as well, even with a four day stop in Cape Verde. We heard yesterday that some ARC boats are beating into 15-20 knot westerlies. No thank you.

Menno admits that he is not the most experienced of sailors so to help his progress up the learning curve he invited two sailing s Bols Sport due to break record reports David Glenn from on board; we meet a former Proctor and Gamble boss, taking a sabbatical