A Day Mother Nature Can Be Proud Of…

From a naturalists point of view today had it all. David Attenborough
would have given up his ticket to the Galapagos Turtle Ball to see what
the North Atlantic had to offer.

During the night, just on the Eastern edge of the Grand Banks, we sailed
through an enormous electrical storm. Lightening of density and
intensity greater than I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve seen a few in my
time. We went right through the middle, with bolts going off everywhere
around the boat at the same time. I stood in the companionway looking
out through the hatch thinking “Great! The biggest electrical storm I’ve
ever seen and where am I? Right in the middle of it standing under an
18m metal pole sticking straight up in the air. The only thing in the
water for perhaps 50nm in each direction!”.

Anyway, it brought a favourable wind shift with it, so I was happy in
the end. Making straight for my goal, I went to make breakfast. After a
while you get to know and recognise every single sound on a boat, the
slap of the halyards on the mast, the gentle knocking of the spare parts
moving about in
the tool box, the rhythmic thud of the empty diesel cans moving with
each wave… But there was a new one! A squeeky eeeeky noise like
something rubbing under really high tension. I couldn’t hear it when I
stuck my head outside, which was even more confusing… Then just as I
turned to continue the investigation down below I saw an enormous whale
alongside. I’m not sure what kind it was. It looked like an enormous
very slow dolphin, and was easily the same size as the boat. Down below
again I could hear its call, now that I understood what it was. The big
old fella stayed around for about another ten minutes and then lumbered
off on his business.

The morning developed into a gloriously sunny, windy, flat water,
perfect sailing morning. As the day went on the seas built and I found
myself slabbing in reef after reef as the conditions got more difficult.
By mid afternoon we were pounding into huge seas again, and doing
anything on board was very difficult. I’ve learned how to sleep with one
arm hanging onto the edge of the bunk, which is strange when you think
about it. I guess it’s not real sleep but it certainly works!

Late afternoon a couple of dolphins came to play. I don’t know what it
is about dolphins but you just can’t help smiling at them. They went off
to fetch some friends and came back with what I can only estimate was
quite literally a hundred dolphins. I sat mesmerised by them for well
over an
hour. I have only ever seen anything like it once before, off the coast
of Donegal. It’s a real privilege to get to experience these things.
They are the memories of this race that will stick with me. Not the jib
changes in the middle of the night, or the spinnaker peels in big seas,
but those moments that could only have happened here, today.

Enough narrative I hear you say, what about the race? Well I’ve been
holding my own nicely in the fleet, but as I feared it was confirmed
this morning that Oscar Meade is about 40nm closer to the finish than
myself on “King of Shaves”. So even though the official standings say
that I am first in class, in actual fact that accolade goes to Oscar.
For now. Oscar is a fantastic sailor, in a great boat, and he deserves
to be where he is for the way he tackled the ice fields. But I’m not
going to rest until I’ve done everything in my power to get past him
again. There is still over 800nm to go, and anything can happen in that
distance.

For now conditions don’t allow much opportunity to attack, but still I’d
best get back to the slog of pounding upwind. It’ll be dark soon. More
tomorrow.

Barry