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Crew member on GBR7383R Visit Malta Puma

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I am a great believer in using various methods of visualisation in sport tohelp aid success at a high level. As many of the people who have sailedwith me on Puma will testify, it has sometimes been used to good effect.There are obviously a few cynics who just keep quiet and ignore me! I haveto be the first to admit though, this race has not quite panned out as Ivisualised it!

What an amazing start we had, power reaching out of the Solent and flyingdownwind in what can only be described as 'champagne sailing conditions.'Morale was high onboard as we screamed into the lead in IRC 1 heading aroundDover with a two mile lead, which was to be gradually increased over thenext few hours to five miles.

The race was not going without incident and there were a few jobs to beadded on a regular basis to the growing snag list! However, it is fair tosay we were not pushing Visit Malta Puma to the limits as this is a marathonand it is a big group of rocks we are sailing around. 'To finish first,first you must finish' is one of my favourite adages!

Four years ago I finished the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland race (withBrian) and was heard to mutter the immortal words 'I am never doing thatrace again.' Brian concurred! So what on Earth are we doing here now youmay ask? Well yesterday we were all asking the same. It reminded me ofSteve Redgrave's famous quote 'if you ever see me in a rowing boat again youhave permission to shoot me.' He went onto win another Olympic gold medaland a Knighthood!

This race is almost an exact mirror of that race four years ago! Back thenSara had to be medi-vaced of Puma, we were protested by the race committeefor allegedly sailing the wrong side of Eddystone Light (later to bedropped) and everything on board was breaking, all in the first 30 hours!For the rest of the race we were fighting from behind with a large deficiton the leaders.

It is fair to say that my heart sunk when the alternator stopped workingyesterday. I was utterly dejected as I knew that it probably spelt the endof our dream of racing around Britain and Ireland in our attempt to win IRC1 of the RORC championships. Power onboard is vital for both safety andsurvival, it powers our comms equipment to the outside world to obtainweather info, it powers our nav lights at night so we can be seen by otherships and most importantly it powers our water maker which provides us withfresh drinking water!

For hours whilst at sea in a rough sea we tried to find the fault and fixit. As time ticked by and the remaining battery power was dying it wasbecoming more clear that we may need to retire. I decided to proceed andget an hours sleep before making a final decision as to what to do.

Upon waking up things were no clearer, the alternator fairy had not waved amagic wand and the decision was taken to suspend racing and head back (over60 miles) to Great Yarmouth. We intended to moor the boat in flat water andtry again to repair the alternator. The word 'retire' is not in myvocabulary (I have only retired for three RORC races in 10 years). We werenot going to give up till we had exhausted every single option. However, weare allowed no 'outside assistance' for this race, which includes taking onspares or supplies if we needed help or new parts the outcome was clear, wewould have to retire.

Unbelievably the alternator was fixed! Sadly though one of our team memberswas not able to continue for personal reasons and had to leave us in GreatYarmouth. Deja-vue ! So here we are four years later, coming from behindwith a protest from the race committee hanging over us and we are one teammember down, all in the first thirty hours!

I am sat at the chart table typing this in awe of the team I am sailingwith. To embark on a race like this is a tough decision that takes guts anddetermination. To decide to continue in such adversity, not even knowingwhether the RORC intend to disqualify us, is an amazing test of everyone'scharacter on board. It takes a certain person to have the inclination andstrength to willingly leave the comfort of a sheltered harbour to continueon a race like this.

Not only have we re joined the race 150 miles behind the leaders in ourclass I am really pleased to tell you that morale on board is extremelyhigh. We have just finished dinner listening to our adopted boat song 'IGotta Feeling' ..that tonight is going to be a good night, blaring out ofthe deck speakers. The sun was setting in full glory over a gas rig a fewmiles to the East of us. How much more perfect can the world be.

As David Phillips says 'we are still on the dance floor' and David, I canassure you we are still dancing, especially your old man! We are going togive this our all, it is what ocean racing is about. It is not just aboutwinning; it is about competing, finishing, giving it 100%, overcomingadversity, camaraderie, personal endeavour and above all else fulfilment.Just finishing this race will make everyone onboard a winner and I am soproud of them all.

Four years ago we climbed our way back into 2nd place in IRC1, the protestfrom the race committee was justifiably dropped and we all made life longfriends. The sense of achievement was intense. I can not promise you anygold medals on this occasion, we are an awful long way back, and I doubt anyof us are going to receive a Knighthood (more likely some little men inwhite coats will be awaiting us in Cowes) but what I do know is that we aregoing to fight to the finish line and do everything we can to win the RORCchampionships in IRC1. We are down but not out and fighting all the wayhome.

Allie, if I ever tell you I want to do the Sevenstar Round Britain andIreland race again you have my full permission (and Brian's) to shoot me onthe spot!

Thanks to everyone for all you messages and comments. They are keeping usgoing and it is so good to know how much support we have.

Philippe Falle Skipper Visit Malta Puma

Allie Smith

Managing Director

Sailing Logic Ltd

Shamrock Quay Marina

Southampton

SO14 5QL

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