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Crew member on GBR7383R Visit Malta Puma

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Not the best night ever! We fell into a little patch of windless Atlantic early evening, just North of Ireland, and there we stayed for nearly four hours.

It was slightly frustrating to watch Beluga and Winsome, who we had left in our wake the day before, close the gap substantially. I felt quite despondent as their boats appeared in full view for all on board to see on our computer monitor, spelling out the reality that they had caught us up. The signal they were transmitting only has a range of 15 miles! They are chasing hard and sent a clear signal that they meant business.

As I am sure you will appreciated, morale and performance are closely related out here. It is a simple tried and tested formula; plus performance and minus deficit equals plus morale, or minus wind and plus deficit equals minus morale. Beyond that, at this stage of the race, it becomes increasingly difficult to find new formulas that work. I do have some ideas though!

Our determined but battle weary and slightly down trodden team are working hard on the damage limitation. However, the sleep deprivation and difficult living standards are really starting to take their toll now. Gone is the banter and laughs of the last two days as the watches swop duties (being on deck making Puma go fast for sleep)! That banter has been replaced by a beeline on the hour at change over time to see who can be the first to bed to snore the loudest. Alan won on this occasion, on both counts!

Whilst Alan, Paul, Rob and Phil are enjoying the next five hours in the land of nod the other four are on deck in the pouring rain pushing Puma ever closer to home as fast as they possibly can. Matt, you will be pleased to know I have just been on deck to scold them as boat speed was two hundreths of a knot down and all I can say to you is 'Tosser'! (Btw, all the pan lids are stainless this time and that moment of Selsy Bill four years ago is still probably one of my most vivid memories of that race, oh how much I tried not to laugh you will never know)!

Peter is sheltering out of the rain down below doing all he can to boost morale! The porridge was much appreciated, the fresh coffee a real boost and the bread is about to go into the oven. Does he make such a big mess at home Alex? These little luxuary's make so much difference and go a long way to re-establish the motivation and enthusiasm for pushing that little bit harder. Thanks Allie for once again doing the most superb job of providing us with an outstanding supply of food. You probably have no idea how much differnece it makes to us out here but I can assure you it really does. It is hardly surprising that the likes of Mike Golding and Dee Caffari have secured your services over the past decade (and a bit)!

I have just delivered my latest sermon to those on watch to encourage them to put into practice all they have learnt over the past few months. The wind is shifting all over the place and is up and down like Tottenhams football performance. This requires constant fine tuning and adjustment of the sails and complete concerntration is needed at all times to maximise the performance. The guys on deck can either huggle up on the low side and feel sorry for themselves, shivering in the latest downpour that Ireland unsurprisingly delivers to us, or they can make time go faster and put into action the best lesson in sailing that Sir Chay Blyth taught me; 'Trim, Trim, Trim.' As Ras Turner has always pointed out, 'Boat speed is the most important thing in life'

I am sure you are getting the picture; we are still trying our hardest, we are running into our reserve tanks but we will not be beaten. The forecasted easterly head wind for the remainder of the race is a slight irritant at present, but at least the high pressure system positoned over England is going to provide us with an abundance of sunshine to help re energise.

It is fair to say that with every hour that ticks by now we are having a realisation that it is becoming less likely we will break the barrier that lies between us and the boats ahead. They have re-gained a relatively good lead over us now and I am sure you have noticed that when playing catch up there is a definate bungee effect. Over a period of time we will close substanital distance only to be followed by the fleet ahead pulling away from us. What we do take emmense satisfaction from is that at one stage British Soldier and Encore were 160 miles ahead. After the latest bungee effect, as I call it, was completed we are only 112 and 124 behind respectively. In relative terms that is a huge reduction in deficit.

As I said yesterday, sailing is all about finding solutions, but sometimes solutions find us. Whilst we will not be able to outsail the guys ahead to beat them at this stage, what we are doing is sailing our socks off to position oursleves in the best place possible to take advantage of any opportunity ahead that may present itself. Those opportunites become less likely as the hours tick by, but we will be there if they do. One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt over the past ten years of offshore racing is that it is not over till I have that cigar in one hand and bottle of bubbles in the other. There are no cigars on board or bubbles so we have to finish before it is over.

Our latest ETA is probaly middle of the night on Saturday/Sunday, well it is tradition for Puma to arrive in the middle of the night and I see no reason why we should change that habit after six years! I certainly intend to ensure that we are back for Sunday lunch at the latest.

Love to everyone at home

We are all safe, well and mostly smiling

The good news is the sun has just come out and we at full speed again.

Philippe

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