Jour 9 a bord d'Encore. Devinez !? On navigue Encore babord amure, et ca fait 1400 milles que ca dure. Les oscillations et les variations de vent nous ont fait faire beaucoup de changements de voiles d'avant: grand spi, spi de capelage, asymetrique, jib top, genois lourd et enfin le fameux genois 3 ... repare par le skipper. Presque toute la garde robe a pris l'air! On passe beaucoup de temps a peaufiner les reglages pour optimiser la vitesse, l'assiette et preserver le materiel avant le dernier virage et le dernier bord de pres de 700 milles.... Encore babord. Les francais d'Encore.
The Cheeki Rafiki Crew,
from Left to right,
Gary Perry, Steve Hacking, Gareth Glover (Skipper), Martyn Gates, Ken Allison, Nick Denyer, John Rutherford, Bret Wiliams.
31st Aug ~ Day 9
It's a strange and wonderful thing that adults like playing games way past their childhood; flying kites, playing make believe, hide and seek, sardines, dressing up. All of these were evident on our watch yesterday. The spinnaker was the first to elicit oohs and ahs of childish wonder as we burled along with our kite flying full in the Irish breeze, perfect harmony between wind and sail, each teasing the other into playful submission.
By the time our watch came up on deck, however, the wind had almost died and we had to content ourselves with a lingering look at the Black Rock as we inched our way past it. Frustration turned to alarm at the start of the evening watch; not only had we failed to pass it, we were now drifting helplessly towards it as tide and wind (or the lack of it) were both against us. We tried offering a 20 cent piece to Neptune, but it sent him into a windless sulk. As the moon rose yellow behind the rock, silhouetting its black outline in a menacing glow, it was time for the imagination to run riot. Pirates lived there, even the Lorelei were waiting to lure us to certain doom. so we whistled down the wind, sang sweary songs to show our contempt of the enemy, squeezed like sardines onto the guard rail to adjust the balance of the boat and played hide and seek with the host of stars in the sky as they darted behind clouds and out again.
Well, something must have worked the wind slowly came to its senses and we cleared the rock, the pirates and the Lorelei to our delight and weary relief. All good fun, though it wouldn't make us go any faster. But then neither would the sight of and eminent Australian radiologist, helming our boat to within an inch of perfection and dressed, for reasons nobody quite understood, as a Smurf with dreadlocks
Today we mean serious business once again. The wind's up; there's a race to be run and it's not over yet.
Philippe's Final Blog From Visit Malta Puma
If I am quite honest I have to admit that as I enter the approaches to the English Channel on Visit Malta Puma for the very last time it is not with the blaze of glory that I had quite envisaged. I had imaged that we would be at the front of the pack, fending off tough competition from British Soldier in one last dog fight with our arch rivals, to the bitter end.
For six glorious years I have forged a partnership with Puma and been a part of a project, meticulously managed from the shore by Allie Smith, that has achieved something that I could only have dreamed of. It is fair to say that I do have exceptionally high standards and always strive for success, which to me has been measured by results.
Along the way I have learnt many valuable lessons, often the hard way, which has helped me build exceptional teams. In 2007 the standards that I set myself, and the team, were unachievable in the format I laid out. Back then I did not have the skills set to adapt and manage the expectations in a positive way and I possibly even lacked the maturity and inclination to want to.
The result was a break down in the team that went beyond the point of return and reconciliation, it was out of control and I could do nothing except watch what on paper should have been an incredible season dissolve into disaster. That year we won the St Malo race becoming the first British boat to beat Pen Azen offshore. The achievement meant nothing to most of the team and was an inconsequential measurement of the success of the campaign.
Lesson learnt; winning is not everything, the people involved are more important than anything. I nearly gave up racing at the end of that season and some of the team did!
Sometimes we put lessons learnt to the back of our mind and only use them subconsciously when going about our every day life. Occasionally when digging deep in difficult situations we have to look harder at the overall picture and use every tool we have in the box to succeed.
Two years ago we stormed into the English Channel at the end of the Madeira Race chasing Pen Azen hard. The last 700 miles of the race were covered in just under three days as Puma surfed down waves at break neck speeds of up to 20 knots swallowing up the miles. We overhauled the French boat and won that race in style. I think in my mind that is how I envisaged the climax of my last offshore race aboard Puma to be.
Instead, we have an upwind race to the end, where the last 400 miles to the finish will take three days! We have our own private battle going on with Cheeki Rafiki and are fighting hard all the way to ensure we do not finish at the bottom of the leader board.
As I am sure you are all aware, I am passionate about the sea, live for my racing and have revelled in the success story of Visit Malta Puma. I wanted a grand finale to the story and I will now openly admit that at times I have struggled to rationalise the situation. I dug deep whilst becoming overwhelmed with a feeling I was staring failure straight in the face. Whilst having a moment to myself to reflect I remembered that valuable lesson learnt in 2007, success is not only measured by silverware, far from it there is much more to it and this race is proving that.
2005 The story of Puma Logic began with what I refer to as the pioneering years. Brian joined the team and Puma more or less picked us. The Reflex 38 was an unknown on the racing circuit, Sailing Logic was a new concept and we had several novices on board for our first Fastnet campaign.
Somehow, and to this day I have no idea how, we won our class in the Rolex Fastnet race and finished the season by winning the Emily Verger Plate for toping the leader board in IRC1 of the RORC Championships. We made our intentions clearly know; we meant business.
2006 saw Puma going from strength to strength and the season culminated in a 2nd place in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
2008 provided me with the best month of my life as we took Puma half way across the Atlantic and back whilst competing in the Madeira Race which secured Puma her first overall victory in a RORC race
2009 became the glory year as Puma received the Royal Ocean Racing Clubs highest accolade being named as their 'Yacht of the Year' and a place in offshore racing's hall of fame.
2010 is the year we consolidated that award by taking first blood in the Cervantes Cup, winning the Round Ireland Race and leading the RORC championship in IRC for most of the season. Brian is still with the team and has only ever missed three offshore races on Puma over the past six year!
For me the perfect end to an amazing six years would be to take home the Emily Verger Plate for a second time. It would be dedicated to all those who had been involved and instrumental to the success. Seeing that prospect slip away made me feel like I was letting everyone down and I began to remember the old adage, you are only as good as your last race and I became worried that Puma would be remembered by this result. I also felt I was letting everyone down on board who had committed so much to compete in this race with a trust in me and Puma's reputation.
I suddenly realised, after being prompted by Becki in an e-mail, that the way we are finishing this race is in fact a much more fitting and exceptional ending to the story. Below is what I wrote in an e mail to my mother last night and I think it says everything I need to say
'This is not quite the blaze of glory that I envisaged for our finale but I have come to appreciate that in fact this is a far more fitting end to an era. This race epitomises every value that I stand for and the strength of character that I have cajoled out of everyone who sails with me. The determination that is being shown on puma for this race is as a result of everything I have learnt and imparted on others over the past few years. This race is not about the silverware, this is about something far more special and fitting for the final chapter of a very special partnership.
2007 is the year you may have noticed I left out from Puma's history with me detailed above. Well that is the year I learnt my most valuable lesson; it is not just about winning, it is about the team and the people involved. It is that lesson that has helped me through this race.
We have climbed mountains together, broken down many barriers, earned immense respect and left people in awe of what has been achieved on the water. Above all else we have inspired many people and given so much to so many over six glorious years.
I therefore conclude that indeed Puma will be remembered for this race as I feared; however, she will be remembered for something far more unique and special than winning, with a place in our hearts that no trophy can buy.
Fear not though, Puma is remaining in our thoroughbred stable, it is just time for me to move on to pastures new with new challenges at Sailing Logic; watch this space.
For me now, I am going to leave you with those random thoughts of mine and go and enjoy my last day and night offshore with Puma for one last dance. I for one am going to miss her and intend to savour every last minute with the boat that has kept us all safe through thick and thin.
As for the Emily Verger Plate, well that is now in the hands of our friends on Encore and team mates on Playing Round Logic; but you know what, for the first time ever, that really does not matter to me anymore.
Red watch were now back up top and it was time for Blue watch to reluctantly hand over, feeling the storm itself had more to offer. It's wierd to be so damp and cold and yet so enthralled and excited that you simply want more!
Down in the bunks, sleep was impossible as Steve, Nick, John and Martin could be heard upstairs wrestling the storm.
Steve was on the helm as the fully reefed, bare headed boat lurched shuddered and surfed through the chaos that had become this beautiful edge of the Atlantic ocean.
The bang once again shook all of us apart from the pros. Gareth in the bunk next to me mused '..kickers gone again..', a few minutes later the snoozing skipper noted in the voice he reserves for teaching, 'that rushing water noise under the boat means we're going really quick'!. I observed 'your mate Steve's got balls;. He thought this was really funny.
While he's admiring the speed of the boat and making mental notes of breakages and lost profit, and having a few good long sleepy scratches, I'm in the next bunk trying to stop thinking of the 1979 fastnet disaster!
Can I be bothered going for a slash, if in a minute the boat's going to go tits up?, was one of the other bizarre dilemmas I was wrestling with!
A few more bangs and thuds (not to mention the dent into the now long spent profit,) later and the call for Gareth came from above.
From the adjacent bunk I burst out laughing as he muttered,
'suppose a've got to urn ma muney somehow!'. My impending visit to the toilet continued to dominate my efforts to sleep.
The rest of blue watch dozed, me on the blog, Gary watching films on his 'it's not an IPOD' IPOD thing, and Bret dreaming of his Australian red dirt, or whatever the Aussie dream of.
Sleepless Steve was continuing to wrestle the storm from the helm whilst trying to remember why he and his boat were here at all! He could have been doing a nice easy charter in the solent with corporate types who'd want to get back to their hotels, giving Steve a chance to spend time with his family who he clearly loves dearly. Instead here he was, on what his mate mad Gareth had described in the marketing as one of the ultimate racing challenges.
As another wave landed on Steves head he nodded to John to take over the Helm, with Nick watching the main. Martin was trying to remember how far he could stretch the definition of fun.
Gareth and Steve had a ponder over which broken bits needed fixing now and out came the box of spares. Gareth disappeared up onto the coach roof and somehow managed to replace the shattered kicker blog yet again. The main calmed down bit.
My alarm went at 525, time to wake up blue watch ready for our 0600 till 1200 stint. Looking out of the warm wet lurching cabin at the guys above it was clear the bikini would not be enough today.
Gary, Bret and I bounced off each other around the saloon as we wrestled to dress in anything we could find that resembled a waterproof or armour plating.
A glance at the Chart on the GPS showed we should pass Sula Skeir on our shift. It's a great feeling to know the next leg of the ride is about to be over. and we'd be on the way to St kilda and then the long leg to Black rock and Ireland.
Oh, what a night ( I love that song from the 60's). Our mates on red shift had seen wind speeds consistently above 40 knots on the bow and beam. This had been the toughest watch so far and they (Steve, Nick, John and Martin) did us proud..
Now for the day. This was fantastic with the wind in the 30+knots through till around 1100hrs and seas like mountains with two separate wave patterns occasionally coming together to form massive peaks.
Gary and Steve did a brilliant job fixing the nr 3 sail again. This needlectaft workshop was becoming a routine feature of our daylight shifts whenever the boat calmed down enough to avoid stitching each other to the sails.
We passed Sula Skeir on our port(honest), a small threatening island that was soon gone as we now focussed on the leg to St Kilda.
With the wind in the high 20's - low 30's and the sea easing we handed over to Red Watch for their 1200 to 1800 shift.
As I handed over to Nick we discussed where we had each left our comfort zones behind! I thing the toilet at the Anchor in Cowes is full of dumped comfort zones!
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