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.