Race 9 Day 2, Sun May 16th

16th May

Our watch rose wearily for breakfast. All had little or no sleep. It was too hot, we were beating straight into the wind which meant the return to violent, boat slamming, bone shaking action. This also meant water over the deck and so no hatches were open which in turn contributed to the stale, airless, oppressive heat in the fore-peak. It really was the most unpleasant living conditions and brought on a new wave of sea sickness in those that were prone to suffer from it. 
The Jamaica Clipper, who we'd left slightly ahead to our starboard side when we came off watch last night, were now slightly ahead on our port side. With the strong winds we'd already put one reef in the main (effectively reducing the sail area to reduce sideways  push and maximize speed) and were gradually catching them even though they had their whole main up (sometimes less IS more!).
Kirsten was on helm and as this was to be her last race with us fixed her sights on the Jamaicans with a steely determination to reel them in! We watched them like a hawk. They spotted that we were going faster with a reef in and prepared to do the same themselves. Justin primed us so that the second they started we'd go ahead and put our second reef in. The wind was increasing all the time and we'd benefit from it. The trick was to do it at the same time as they put their first one in, so they didn't gain any advantage, but also to do it quicker and cleaner.  They went for it and so did we. We were quicker and cleaner and were soon alongside and then in front of them. Kirsten had a grin from ear to ear and as I took over the helm we were already putting some distance between us.

The early scheds had us in 2nd place and recently, in equal first with 3 other boats! Jamaica had been one of the three so we now knew we were in equal first with 2 others – Finland and Cape Breton. We were completely fired up. We were well placed, our sails were set, the wind was strong and looked like it was going to stay that way all the way up to Jamaica. This was our chance to prove what we could do. One of our favourite phrases on board was “Drive it like you stole it” That's exactly what we were doing – and just had to keep doing for a couple more days!

As the day went on we could see our main rivals were further out to the east. The wind was coming from east north east which was making it pretty difficult for us to close the angle and edge eastwards too.  The key challenge for the helms was to keep as much speed on while “heading-up” the whole time (sailing as tight into the wind as we could, to get our Easting in). I knew this was a key time when Piers's philosophy would pay off. The entire crew had always helmed under his regime and while we'd always have some who were naturally better than others, we had a crew who all understood the art of making the most of any lift from the wind we'd get. All understood about sailing to apparent winds rather than a fixed course and all understood that when they sensed any slight changes in wind strength and direction, to bring it to the attention of the watch leader or skipper so we could respond quickly and make quick gains or minimise any potential losses. More importantly the workload was spread out across everyone so we could always have helms that were not tired, and who could concentrate hard for the duration of their stint. Our one new policy for this race was that if a helm was “in the groove” we'd keep them on rather than rotate after a set period of time. If they were doing well and weren't tired it made sense to go through fewer changeovers. There was always a small drop in performance as it takes a few minutes to get the feel of the boat, the wind and the waves. Anywhere we could make ground and save tenths of a mile now, we should.