Crew member on 16 Dorade
It is wednesday morning and a rather cloudy day has just dawned as we
complete our second full day at sea and creep past the half way mark. We
have so far sailed around Antigua, Barbuda, Nevis, St Kits, Saba, St
Barths, St Martin, Tintamarre and are now approaching Monserrat. Out on
our port side, the lead boats are currently on their final charge towards
Redonda a good 24 hours ahead of us. We also have Selene in our sights,
our major competition within our class and the only boat we owe time to.
The race is on.
It has been 6 months since we last all raced together aboard Dorade but
things are going smoothly. It takes a while to remember which sheet
performs which job as all lines are white and although this may sound
bizarre, it takes a while to get used to the quiet down below. Most of us
on board come from carbon boat backgrounds and are used to the cacophony
of noise that reverberates around the hull as you race. Whilst this may
not sound pleasant, once you are used to it, the noise lets you know
exactly what is happening with the boat. On Dorade there is no chattering
over waves, no highly loaded winches screeching as lines are eased and no
slamming off of trade wind driven seas. Instead there is the creaking
sound of the wooden interior as it twists with the motion of the boat and
a gentle sound of water rushing by. Sleep therefore is deep.
Off the breeze and with full main mast and mizzen sails launched, Dorade
is in her element. We were surprised to not only hold onto a good few
boats on the way to Barbuda but to actually overtake a couple. We were
even more surprised after rounding Saba to see Mariella come charging at
us from behind. We do however suffer upwind in a seaway and we have quite
a bit of that yet to face. Conditions have certainly helped us out so far
with a good deal less breeze than in last years race. The extensive
development of the sail wardrobe over the last year and the optimization
of sailing modes has also been an invaluable to our performance so far.
We are currently en route to one of the trickiest sections of the race
course. First we must sneak passed Monserrat which will be a challenge
for the on watch crew as every squall cloud sends the breeze clocking to
the right by up to 60 degrees. This sets our course closer to the island
and so far we have dealt with 3 such cloud masses. Then comes the south
westerly corner of Guadeloupe and its infamous wind shadow. Play it right
and we will be slowed for an hour, get it wrong and we could be stuck for
several. We have a strategy, we have our new secret weapon sail and
needless to say we will be watching Selene like a hawk.
So for now we push on towards Guadeloupe, the on watch crew getting doused
in equal parts rainwater and salty ocean spray whilst the off watch crew
cling on to their bunks as Dorade quietly pitches and rolls in the lumpy
sea. The big question is, can we win our class?