The first day from the point of view of the bowman (Joseph Macdonald).
The day started early today, up at 6am shower, coffee, pick up the last
emails and skype the last person (toodle-pip you!), then we went into the
final preparations for the boat: find a home for a 20 something foot
spinnaker pole (proudly sitting on the foredeck of a 95ft super yacht), put
on the class flags ,remove personal kit to save even more weight (we haven't
yet found out whether it was Philippe or Tim who took the saucepan lids off
the boat to save weight yet: it's a serious business!
After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, we finally leave the pontoon and head
through the `gate' where the crew is counted (apparently racing rules
specify that you have to finish with the same number of crew as you start
with...) and into the start area. There's a lot more wind there than during
training and we reef the mainsail before the start so the boat doesn't get
overpowered and spend more time going sideways than forward.
20 minutes to the start: we've headed up the start area a bit and checked
out the line: one of our competitors has hit the buoy marking the end of the
line and it's stuck around their keel: they have a man in the water trying
to free it so we give a wide berth.
15 minutes to the start: we've checked out the line, and know where it is: a
crucial but often forgotten step! We've tacking and gibing around now
through the start area: all the boats ducking and diving each other remind
me of some intensely choreographed ballet, but no time to think about that!
10 minutes to start: time check: I get the 10 minute mark from the starting
box up on Fort Charlotte, and take up my position for my absolute favourite
part of any race: shame that it's at the beginning! I'm right at the front
of the boat standing in front of the forestay and this boat has no pulpit:
adrenaline is racing now, and it's really important to keep my focus. I
check under the sail: boat coming at us, I tell Philippe, the skipper, and
he changes course to avoid them.
5 minutes to go: I'm checking my watch all the time, the boat is going
through a succession of tacks and gybes as we line up on the start line.
Dead important not to go over too soon, otherwise we get recalled.
Less than a minute to go, right up on the forestay, my job is to signal how
far away we are: 2 boat lengths! No 3! No 2 Again! The boat is longer than I'm
used to and it's hard to tell, I take a glance at the other boats and they're
behind us, quick hand thrust down to say we're over, Philippe ducks back,
and the final countdown goes.
We're racing along the line, from one end to the other, I'm still on the
bow, 5 seconds to go, I'm sure we're over, no we're not, 4, 3, 2, 1 then the
start gun< no time to hang around and check: in 20 knots of breeze the boat
needs all the help she can get: I'm safely on the rail, leaning out
(hiking), hoping against hope that we started well. Looks like we were very
nearly first over the line: a good start I think as we settle in for a long
reach around Antigua. Then the helmsman plunges the nose of the boat into a
wave and I get soaked. But hey, it's the Caribbean, and the water's warm: I'm