it’s hot and humid, the sky is heavy with cloud and over the last 36hrs everything has become very intense on this our final 1000 miles of the TJV.
We have ended up slogging it out mile for mile with two other boats, Groupe Setin and Espoir Competition and it has been down to the mile. What had been a virtual race played out with 6hrly position reports from the race committee became a reality in the early hours of Wednesday morning we spotted what looked like a mast head light on the horizon to the East of us. We checked the AIS but nothing there, and decided in all likelihood it was Groupe Setin. Sure enough as the sun rose the outline of a spinnaker led class 40 appeared still nothing on the AIS though – isn’t it funny how so many of them work in port but just conk out at sea?? A decent marine electrician could make a fortune in the racing world….
Slowly over the previous night our lead had been eroded by both boats largely due to our reticence to use the newly repaired A2 big spinnaker, however with the stark reality of a competitor in sight we resolved firmly it is better to go down fighting than to take a slow defeat through not having the right sail up the mast. From now on we use the A2 like there is nothing wrong with it. So far it is holding.
The rest of yesterday was a blur, we steered, trimmed, monitored the breeze but still they remained on our hip, finally the opportunity came to gybe away and we took it just to try and break the cycle of having them there. Both of us understand at this stage how important it is not to let things slip, we need to stack the boat well, change between spinnakers with diligence, to be lazy will cost us places. Down below moving all of the kit from one side to the other after a gybe is excruciating, it is unbearably hot to climb down under the cockpit and place our stacking bags, the inside of the boat is salty and you are drenched in sweat before even one tenth of the job is done.
Yesterday was one of those days when sleep went by the wayside as there was always a sail change of manoeuvre to be done and by the afternoon we were both starting to feel the strain of the heat and lack of sleep, this is when mistakes can happen and of course if they can they will. We had changed between the little and big spinnakers multiple times yesterday with no problem, by now we are a slick team, Pips on the helm and me battling it out on the foredeck; but in the afternoon when changing up we just got our timing a bit wrong and the spinnaker tack let go with and sent the whole sail flying and flogging wildly before I could pull the snuffer down. As an open target on the foredeck a spinnaker sheet compete with metal shackle whipped across and caught me on the corner of my face and I dropped to the deck with my hands over my head. It was over in an instant, the boat back under control and me crouched down pulling down the snuffer and battling with a stabbing pain in the face. I
resolved to finish the change and methodically went through the motions of unplugging one sail and then hoisting the next, when I got back to the cockpit I could already see out of the corner of my eye a huge swelling had appeared and Pips face told me it wasn’t pretty. After some strong anti-inflammatories and a large dose of painkillers and a sleep the egg has disappeared and I am left quite rightly with a blackening eye; I would feel cheated to have had such a painful injury with no war wounds to prove it.
Last night we knew we needed to take care, the balance between pushing the boat to stay ahead and making mistakes through exhaustion was on the verge of tipping and we needed to keep it the right way. Overnight we settled for using the smaller spinnaker in marginal conditions and trying to each bank a decent four hour sleep. Mercifully it has been cooler for sleeping and we were allowed an uneventful night. We both woke recharged and ready for another day of action.
Today is exactly that, again we are no holds barred with the big spinnaker, ignoring the big scar across it and pushing as hard as we can. Anything still goes, we have just over 24 hours to Cabo Frio and then the final chapter of this race will play out in the light an fickle winds for the final 300 miles to Itajai. We are not counting the days or hours, there is no point in pinning our hopes on a finish time, we just need to sail fast and stay in the game, just like our competitors.