Day 3 – Pursuing the Rock
It’s been a testing 24 hours onboard Team SCA.
In the context of offshore racing you would imagine this means we’ve been battling the elements, little sleep, big waves, thrashing winds…if only! To the contrary we’ve been drifting towards the Fastnet Rock, every mile crept towards it taking hours of concentration, tacks, gybes, peels. It’s a thankless task sailing in no wind. Most of the crew are confined to staying in front of the mast as we need as much weight forward as possible to keep the drag to a minimum. This means that on watch only two people are sailing the boat in the cockpit, and off watch everyone and everything is in the bow area (where the doorless toilet is!).
“It’s so frustrating,” says Abby. For Abby it’s the lack of control you have that makes light wind sailing the worst. Yesterday we managed to peel our boat in front of our closest competitors, being one of the first in our group to lead away from Lands End. But after a night of barely moving, desperately trying to get west into the new breeze, our hard work was not met with the reward we’d hoped for. The new wind seemed to fill in all around us, leaving us floundering for an hour longer than our competitors in a hole, sails flapping, crew left helpless, watching as our competitors sailed away.
But all is not lost. As I write I’m struggling to wedge myself to windward as we’re back to our standard 30 degrees of heel. The wind is building, tipping us over and we’re pointing straight at the Fastnet Rock 30 miles away. Aksel has just come on deck to give us an update and we’re expecting 20kts by the rock, with a fast ride home. Spirits have lifted, off watch crew are allowed back to their bunks and the buzz of anticipation at rounding the Fastnet Rock (even in the dark) can be felt on deck.
Now as I get an hour off watch before I’ll be woken for the necessary maneuvers to round the rock, I’m reminded of life onboard at 30 degrees of heel. The relentless challenge of trying to find somewhere to lean against so you can successfully get each leg out of your trousers without being propelled across the cabin with every wave. Filling your dog bowl with freeze dried food, then trying to work out how to get from the galley to the nav station without decorating the inside of the boat with the contents of your bowl. Then finally venturing into the unknown, a place of certain death, the head (also known as the toilet). This requires clambering forward of the galley, lowering yourself through the forward bulkhead without skidding on the black carbon floor, then a limbering maneuver on one leg (not dissimilar to climbing into a very high sided bath, except at 30 degrees of heel), before finally arriving in the ‘head’. Then follows the struggle to safely removing all your kit without the arms of your mid-layer or any other fleece items trailing into the pool of water that inevitably swashes around the bilge as soon as there’s any water on deck. Eventually fed, watered, undressed and relieved comes the ascent into the top aft bunk. It’s dark, cramped and if you attempt to climb in without posting yourself head first, you get stuck, very stuck.
Yet I’ll take all the struggles of life at 30 degrees of heel any day over drifting in no wind. Wish me luck I’m off to the head, then a quick sleep before rounding THE ROCK!
See you on the other side.