LOCATION: 100 miles W of New Caladonia
SAILS: Big jib, staysail, full main
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1200 MILES
We have a strap that we tie from one end of the galley entrance to the other. It’s a preventer so that when upwind sailing is at it’s worst and you’re tucked inside cooking on the high side, you don’t risk losing your grip on the boat and falling all the way to leeward. It’s an important piece of equipment, but one I hate seeing in use; it usually comes with a great deal of discomfort. It’s like a status, like a Code Red or a Defcon 4. The preventer’s in place, life will suck for the next period of undetermined time and your body will hurt today.
Fortunately, it’s only been about four hours since I put that strap in place, and it’s probably time to take it off. The awful upwind conditions – a surprise to us all – are coming to an end as our proximity to New Caledonia has helped ease the large swell and rough sea state at blame. The island’s “lee-fect” (yes, I just made that up) also impacts our wind, which has dropped considerably, too.
Besides being the final significant landmass on our charts until New Zealand, New Caledonia is also proving to be a valuable point of relative reference. Going to the east of the island never really proved a viable option, so all six boats have used it’s northwestern corner as a loose waypoint, and it’s done well to bring the east and the west back together again for the first time in weeks. We haven’t seen another boat since the East China Sea, but that may change soon. Telefónica and CAMPER have done fine getting out of their low road and this is going to be a very close race south, especially when and if things slow up as expected during the approach to Auckland. Now comfortable leads could disappear and there could be plenty of passing lanes and park-ups.
It would be a shame to sail all this way and have the prospects of that hard work hinge on a few days of light air lingering near the finish, but that’s part of racing, whether ‘round the buoys or the world, and we’re all preparing for it!
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“It’s like running around with a bungee chord tied around your waste [in the waves]. You take three steps forward, the boat drops out, and you take two steps back.” – Casey Smith