We are approaching the southern tip of Guadeloupe having suffered a very frustrating windless night only to be passed early this morning by Dolphin carrying her kite full and drawing with wind astern until she reached us and then parked. The wind is now from the south force 3 and we are screaming along at 5 knots over the ground !!!. Whoopee. These Caribbean trades are perfect for sailing so we hear! So far they have been as elusive as Lord Lucan.As the night progressed we followed the results page watching our position slip from 5th to 14th as the lareger boats cleared the south of Guadeloupe.
With heavy hearts, the crew of GBR90 40 degrees announced its retirement from the RORC 600 Caribbean race at 0800 on Friday, 26 February 2010 off the North coast of Guadeloupe with some 140 miles to go.
Another mariner wrote of the wind that, "to be rich is a fine thing, to be poor is a fine thing, but to be prospectively rich, that is a torment." Such a notion summarises our last five days: we spent a fine and glorious two days in rich winds, a calm and engaged day in poor winds, but we have since been tormented by the prospect of rich air amidst our windless poverty.
Last evening passed with more great beauty, as we made a sunset round of La Desiderade and began what we hoped would be a 90 mile run North West to Barbuda. After a number of fruitless but energetic sail changes, we had leisure to enjoy the splendour of the evening, as the sailing (or floating, more properly put) did not demand the strictest attention. Short-lived gusts of 6-7 knots gave our optimism cause to ignore the more common 2-3 knot wind speed average. When rosy dawn awoke, her brilliance reflected cleanly across a glassy sea. This utter calm made clear that we would not finish the race before Sunday or Monday. This reality, a fate leading some to consider putting Michael out to sea with an albatross about his neck, was as unacceptable as the alternative of retirement. Caught between our own emotional Scylla and Charybdis, the crew held together and in fine spirits decided as a team to retire. This challenging decision gave way to much banter, raucous humour and a soul and body cleansing swim in the deep and still azure below. The stunningly clear water (1500 feet beneath us) gave a view of the beautiful keel and rudders of 40 Degrees, and the sight of such a fine boat lying so motionless was grave indeed.
Thus determined, we have begun to motor home to Falmouth Harbour and the warm welcome of the peerless RORC team and the embrace of the homely Antigua Yacht Club. Niall has kept our spirits up by describing menus of future meals that will hopefully best our biscuits and peanuts fare of last evening. Inevitably, our focus must move to shore matters, such as where to see Ireland beat England at Twickenham tomorrow and how many rum punches it takes to transition from amusing companion to slobbering idiot at tonight's prize-giving party
Our first task ashore will be to sign up for the next running of this magnificent race and to thank everyone who so kindly made our participation possible. Our boat captain, our mermaid, Miranda Merron, is top of our list of admiration and appreciation for her supreme skills, endless patience and constant good humour. We are also grateful to Peter Harding, who kindly lent us this stunning vessel, and to Sam Goodchild who had her in immaculate condition.
Thank you to you all, our faithful supporters and interested readers.
Congratulations to the first-to-finish Region Guadeloupe and Beau Geste and to all competitors - finishers especially.
Thank you especially to Niall Dowling, our inspiring leader, and John Patrick Cunningham, our poet and philosopher. You have proved true the saying of La Rouchfoucauld, we think it was, that '... the land divides, the sea unites'.
Michael, Niall, John, Miranda
We had another long day today, the bulk of it spent in French territorial waters on the South coast of Guadeloupe. We had a visit from a smart naval vessel to prove it. We left you yesterday morning after doing our four pirouettes in the vortex currents off Les Saintes in Guadeloupe's South West corner. Two more 360s and 24 hours later we have left the South coast at the island of La Desirade and are heading for our penultimate corner, the second rounding of the North Sails inflatable mark, just South of Antigua's sister island, Barbuda, 90 miles to the North. Thence, it will be to Redonda and the finish at Antigua's Fort Charlotte.
We have had more challenging light airs, a mixture of beating, running and plain doing nothing - waiting for wind to relieve us from the merciless sun - and the pain of watching the boats catch us from behind, including our Class 40 sole remaining rival, the two-man Tradition Guadeloupe. At one stage, we had been 22 miles ahead of her. She has a formidable reputation and her crew and auto pilot have clearly been working hard.
Other low moments included the calculation of an estimated time to finish of 12 March - a fortnight hence! This was the result of the GPS's extrapolation after a slow hour and has triggered a discussion our food and drink supplies, on the fate of the prize giving party and our rum punches, on the obligations awaiting us on our originally scheduled returns home and on whether we should join our other rival, Ocean Warrior, as one of a number of retirals. John Patrick has a speaking commitment in Cambridge on Saturday night and a Friday night flight to meet it. Niall must be back at work on Monday - the FTSE has taken a dive in his absence. Boydy, unsympathetically, says that he never retires... Miranda is a mermaid and blissful at sea. Meeting adjourned whilst we await the arrival of Miranda's improved weather prediction.
We note that the sailing instructions state that there is no time limit and no facility to shorten the course. We speculate about the possibility of a future discretionary course - allowing the Race Committee to drop or add whole countries as course marks - ' ...it's too light, forget the second circumnavigation of Antigua' or ' there's plenty of wind, shall we throw in Barbados, that'd be fun'.
Our highlights have included our still delicious Fusion freeze-dried food and yesterday's communion with some of the ocean's great creatures - a mother whale and her baby and a flock (correct collective noun?) of flying fish. The restless high-powered intellectuals on the crew have devised a unique system to overcome the vessel's prohibition on the use of the head and to obviate the need for the bucket and the less than attractive Tesco decomposable bags. This system, first prototyped during a cruise in Turkey, is not ideal breakfast reading but even the redoubtable Miranda is impressed, admiring the additional bidet benefits.
News trickles through from the outside world - of snow and no snow, of Ireland's shedding of Cabinet ministers, and, sadly, of the deaths of two very special people, of Sean in Ireland, son of RORC member Elaine and Stephen Haughey, and of Phyllis Mc Knight of Barbados, at the age of 96. We take time to send messages of love and sympathy.
We leave you on our fourth (unplanned) night, with still some 200 miles to go beating at 6 knots in a lifting breeze that, we hope, will allow us to free sheets for Redonda and to catch our close rival. Our track shows a pretty chain bracket to record a significant wind shift and tack. Tonight, Castor and Pollux, guide us North.
Michael Boyd020026 February 2010
Our high points have included our communion with the sea's creatures - a whale and baby this morning and flying fish tonight. Once again, the beautiful sky has unwrapped it treasures and Castor and Pollux have been guiding us tonight.
We have just completed the long 160 mile beat to the island of Les Saintes off the SW corner of the French Department of Guadeloupe. Our spanking SSW breeze of most of Wednesday has been replaced by virtually no wind since sunset and we have been inching forward or and stopped for prolonged periods. At one stage we did four 360s when trapped in a strong eddy. What a contrast with the regular 12-15 knot winds of the first two days!We must now sail the best part of 50 miles NE to reach the next significant corner of La Desirade, passing Marie Galante and the nature reserve of Iles de la Petite Terre. Last year, sailors faced a long tough beat into 25 knot winds and large seas on this leg.Sailors don't enjoy these light conditions - they are frustrating and enervating. We are discombobulated by the long nights and our two hours on/two hours off rolling watch system. We are exhausted after the exhilaration and hard work of the first two days and disappointed that it cannot be sustained. We know that offshore races are won and lost in these trying night-time conditions and we are preserving our good humour and patience until stronger breezes return.
054025 February 2010Michael Boyd
ETA somewhere around midnight at this stage - a bit slow at the moment but that should improve with distance from Guadeloupe.
Yep, bad memories of the parking lot were whisked away quickly with a nice 18-20kt reach across the bottom to Desirade - that and the sight of others doing it just as tough or tougher than we had it. It was very hard to deal with the corner at Les Saints - very few options of how to attack it other than close your eyes, plunge in and wiggle through as best you can with a rough sketch of what you think is happening with the breeze in the back of your head to make it easier to make the decisions as they thrust themselves upon you!!
Back into some spinnaker work now as we come up to Antigua for the 2nd time this race - will have to keep an eye out for any swimmers on the boat!
During our dual with Dolphin this afternoon south of Les Saintes some of our crew were seen giving them a helping hand.
Lets hope the wind holds overnight as we couldn't stand another wind less night
Approaching the saintes after 140m dead nose beat Looking forward to goingnothh Adrian Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
We have had a good night progressing at around 8 knots on a course of 160, clearing Antigua to the west. Weather reports suggest a wind shift to the west later today then going light which will favour the larger boats again. Saw two more whales but no further sighting of Doljphin since St barts!!! We can now see a Coyote though!! This is turning into more of a Wild life safari!!
We left you last night with dolphins, somewhere off St Kitts. Since then, we have been busy on our sightseeing tour (thank you to RORC for providing such a scenic course!). We continued our downiwnd run to Saba, arriving just after dawn, and rounded quite close to the spectacular, steep-sided island. The peak, Mt Scenery, is over 900 metres high, which creates quite a wind shadow. We were allowed to pass without slowing down too much.The next leg to St Barts was a fast reach, and once past the southeast corner, we were treated to some exhilirating downwind sailing, with the wind gusting to 25 knots from time to time, flying along at 15 knots to St Martin, which we rounded to starboard. The final mark in the northern part of the race course is the island of Tintamarre. All good things come to an end, and it was here that we began the long upwind slog to Guadeloupe.We are now about half way, and the wind has gone into the southwest, so our course to Guadeloupe is quite respectable at the moment. However, the wind has dropped, which is hampering progress as the boat slams gently into the oncoming waves. We must avoid the wind shadow and volcanic ash of Montserrat.We are not sure of the whereabouts of our fellow Class40 playmates. A few miles away, we hope.
0300 on Wednesday as we beat South into light winds. Earlier the pressure was up to 15 to 17kts and EH01 was trucking, but in the lighter stuff we have now we've slowed quite a bit. The crew are tired from lack of sleep, its so hot below that only around this time of night can anyone bear to be down here, so they rest as best as they can on the rail.We had a small drama around the top of St Maarten when a sea cock pipe failed and we took on a fair bit of water before we found the problem. A few hot sweaty hours followed pumping the boat out so as well as warm below she's also damp; not a pleasant combination!Still we are upbeat and enjoying the sailing immensly, although we have lost sight of our friend the J109.
Going on deck to cool down now....
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FORTY DEGREES - RORC 600 DAY ONE
THE NIGHT BEFORE
With our training sail and day of preparation completed, we relaxed on Sunday night with a wonderful dinner prepared by our Pineapple House hostess Libby Nicholson and the charming Sarah Bourne. The dinner - chicken, vegetables, garlic bread, and potatoes - was enjoyed by the crew of 40 Degrees and the RORC committee (also staying at the Pineapple), in addition to Miranda's beau, the formidable Halvard. The hard-working RORC team spoke of their concern over a brand new, but wholly unprepared ,entrant, and of the helicopter/sports fisherboat logistics for the lucky photographers, including Tim Wright, also at dinner with us. Tim told us that he travels to European sailing events in a motor home with specially designed trailer containing his dinghy, a box for his outboard and his Smart car!
Niall and John's principal contribution to the evening was in dismantling the chocolate cake. In all, the crew went to bed grateful and well prepared for the race ahead.
After a morning of final preparations and sturdy breakfasts, 40 Degrees set out to English Harbour for the RORC 600 start at 1230. The start was close in to land, beneath Shirley Heights, just off Fort Charlotte and the spectacular Pillars of Hercules. All 24 competitors were present and sailing well in the 12-15 knot breeze from the South East. After a stirring pre-race speech by Niall, he and Michael orchestrated a strong start on starboard tack, after which we stayed closer to shore than the remainder of the fleet.
In the pre-start sequence, a finger of one unnamed crew member found its way into the runner jam cleat. His cheery reaction to the (luckily) minor cut and bruising was 'Don't worry, I have nine more where that came from'.
As we rounded the bottom of Antigua, several heads of land seemed unmakeable, but Michael was adamant at each one, and indeed 40 Degrees carried us cleanly around, avoiding Mamora Reef, Wicked Will Reef and Man of War Point, amongst several charmingly named hazards. This put us in strong position for the first leg to Barbuda.
THE FIRST LEG
As we rounded the South East corner of Antigua, we turned North (and slightly West) for a run up to Barbuda. We flew the spinnaker and quickly found separation amongst the fleet. We found ourselves ahead of one other Class 40, Ocean Warrior, but the other, Tradition Guadeloupe - a double-hander - closed ground on us. Winds were consistently 12-15 knots from the South, which kept us moving nicely. After four hours, we found our way to the mark off the West coast of Barbuda. Niall steered us round it cleanly and closely, and we dropped the chute in favour of the Solent, as we would now reach for Nevis. Michael again guided tactics, and Miranda and John worked hard at the foredeck.
THE SECOND LEG
As the sun set below an orange sky, 40 Degrees headed out South and West for the rounding of Nevis and St. Kitts. We made strong time throughout the early evening, flying primarily the gennaker in the slightly building 12-17 knot winds. We remained on one tack for this five-hour push, and we were pleased to widen the gap between ourselves and several boats behind, in addition to overtaking a few boats that had performed better in the first downwind leg. Despite these positive notes, we believe the double-hander pulled ahead of us during this time (though darkness prevents our certainty here). Nonetheless, we continued sailing strong as we reached Nevis under a bright moon and shooting stars.
THE THIRD LEG
As our practice sail had taken us to the South of Nevis previously, we benefitted from this experience as we rounded well off to make North West for Saba. With the wind now from the South East, we have been jibing this downwind leg and enjoying the building winds that are now approaching 20 knots. May they continue to build. At the time of writing, we have passed Nevis and the Western side of St. Kitts and jibed to sail West of St.
Eustatius before crossing the 20 mile channel to Saba. We believe that we are second of the three Class 40s but haven't yet opened our satellite phone to check on the RORC tracker.
The wee hours of the morning and our tactical hard work have brought with them fatigue, but under a crystal canopy of stars, with phosphorescence foaming at our stern and playful dolphins now alongside, we are reminded of the adventurer who wrote, "one must labour for beauty, as for bread, here as elsewhere."
John Patrick Cunningham
23 February 2010