Crew member on GBR976R Selene
1400 (Local) Tuesday 19 February
The first 24 hours have been hectic but some of the most enjoyable sailing I have ever done. We have been kept very busy with sail changes and spinnaker hoists and gybes in 20-24 kts of breeze but rewarded with some cracking boat speed and the boat handling has been superb. What a great crew. We think we are still lying second in IRC 3 and will struggle to overhaul the J39 in front of us in the conditions.
A brief summary of the legs to date.
Start and round the south of Antigua was 20-24 kts from just south of east and we were comfortable with the heavy weather jib and a reef in the main. On the run up to Barbuda the wind moderated and we shook out the reef and hoisted the asymmetric spinnaker for while until the wind went forward and we dropped, but were able to hoist our No.1 genoa under the asymmetric so still had plenty of power and were easily hitting 10 kts at times.
The gybe at North sails was tidy and we were amazed to see Tim Wright in his flubber duck, seemingly in the middle f nowhere. I hope he will have managed some great pictures as we rounded the mark in close company with Great Escape - a 52ft Jeannau.
After North Sails we hoisted the Badger (our heavy weather kite) and had a great spinnaker run down to Nevis, spanking along mostly in excess of 10 kts and Vmax was 14.3 kts.
We gybed, in the dark, from a port hoist onto starboard and held the kite as long as could as we hardened up to the west of Nevis before dropping the Badger through the letter box and going back onto a white sail reach. During the night the wind went right and lighter again and we hoisted the asymmetric (still in the dark!) to post speeds of 10-12 kts again. But it became a handful as the wind crept up to 22 kts again and went forward, a combination of the wind going back to East and slightly and the significant contribution our exceptional boats speeds were making in driving the apparent wind forward. After dropping the kite we were still managing 9-10 kts and staying well in touch with a number of other boats around us including Milanto and 2 First 40.7s.
We approached Saba under the No.1 and changed down to the heavy weather jib under the lee of the island with its steep cliffs. We were quickly through the wind shadow behind Saba and out again into 24kts from the East and put a reef in the main, but Selene was still quite a handful in the early part of the beat with a rather short and uncomfortable sea. We put in an early hitch on port tack for an hour or so then tacked onto a long starboard leg before tacking back on port behind St Barts where we saw a little relief from the vicious 3 kt current which makes this leg so difficult. We had some welcome relief from the waves as well and were bang on our targets of 6.5-7kts and 5.6 VMG in the flatter water. Progress around St Barts was good and we hoisted the Badger again on a starboard gybe as we freed off for the run down to St Marten
So the crew have had a lot on in the short duration of the race to date, but the watch system is working well. We are hoping to get round St Marten and start the long reach down to Guadeloupe in daylight as we shall need to keep the heavy weather jib for the beat though the Anguilla Channel and change up to the No.1 for the reach to give us better options if the wind changes.
Food has been great and cheerfully provided by Big Phil or Fishy Phil as we now know him. iBob has been spot on with the nav and all 4 helms have been very slid in driving the boat exactly where Bob tells us to - at speed!
There seems little we can do to improve and hope that the strength of the boat and our strength in depth will continue to keep us in a competitive position during the later stages of the race. The nights are long, but we had a half moon last night and that gave reasonable light, assisted by our deck light for some of the sail changes.
For now the weather remains fair with blue skies and plenty of sunshine and winds of 20-25kts. Not much more we could ask for.
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