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Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Red watch came on 1800 - 2200hrs

As the wind and sea gradually built from the southeast we held our course as southerly as possible. The nr3 went up at 1900 hrs, followed by a first reef in the main at 2000hrs. Sleeping was seriously challenging with the lurching of the boat and the banging of the boom.

Blue watch came on 2200 - 0200hrs

With the first reef in and the boat seriously powered up, Gareth explained how the head sail should be set as a tight, straight blade.

The head sail blade went in, removing the aerofoil profile, we retained our stability and pointing ability, and used the aerofoil in the main sail for the bulk of the power source that raced us into the cacophony of noise that was the night.

Tonight, in an amusing interlude, blue watch examined whether the situation was as real and awesome as it seemed. The currents in the peculiar timed porridge may well have been responsible for the conversation reminiscent of chapters in 'the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy'.

We all felt better, with the notion that we were innocents conned into a bizarre tv show. We quickly realised and became nervous that the parallels with the tv reality show big brother are peculiarly strong..

Here on the big brother boat, a group of disparate, misfits are regularly set tasks, the reward for which is further progress towards the place they started from.

A little sleep deprivation and confinement in a plastic box without a lid are added to make the experience more entertaining to the unknown and disinterested audience..

The boat mates are given a world that leans over and wobbles and a language so incomprehensible that even the welsh have discarded it. It uses words like heads, header, and head sail, none of which mean head.

In comparison, The organisers running the show get lots of sleep and speak very eloquently hiding their media mogul lifestyles behind a little shack of an office in Cowes high Street.

For the first hour we mused the best time to go to second reef. We wanted to keep the power on and with the wind rising a over 20knots the 2nd reef went in at 2300hrs.

We eased the head sail out of its 'blade configuration to give more forward thrust now the main was weakened. The motoring analogy is that we remained well and truly in 4WD but in such strong winds we needed the turbo to the front wheels only.

As we sailed toward the low the winds built up as ESE 20 - 25 gusting 30, confirming the excellent timing of the decisions to reef.

My recollection, helming for nearly 2 hours of this demanding night are the occasional friendly stars that seemed to appear briefly through the heavy clouds just when I needed them. Very briefly on one occasion I stupidly found I was using the mast light, my mistake became apparent when my sleep starved little brain twigged that it was odd to have the star mimicking the movement of the boat!

It is magical sailing in these conditions as patches of the sea lights up in multitudes of colours. I don't claim to know the scientific process behind these blooms. They are especially awesome and for me occasionally spooky.

The sea conditions were challenging and for those 'hiking' on the side of the boat the incessant violent soaking rapidly cease to be amusing and this adds to the other challenges of living in these conditions. The cold and damp penetrate the strongest spirit.

We were now 35 miles west of black rock, off the Irish coast.

Our Plan A was simple, keep pushing south on the SE wind then reach across on the southerly if it comes.

Red watch returned 0200- 0600hrs

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Red watch came on 1200 - 1800hrs

The blogger slept intensely. This followed a large porridge breakfast.

Blue watch came on 1800 - 2200hrs

This was the most beautiful sunset, accompanied by the large pod of dolphins that kept reappearing to provide jumping displays.

Gareth was already looking far ahead and explained how we may find ourselves in two days time tacking to Bishops Rock against the SE wind.

Through this watch we removed the reef and remained on the starboard tack,

This brought us to the south of the fastnet rock, somewhat disappointing as the photos from last year would have to do, we won't be seeing the infamous lighthouse on this trip.

The irish coast was totally hidden behind cloud and mist. We had one final faint glimpse of land through the mist but this would be our final siting of this historically troubled land..

We discussed our options at length. The synoptic forecasts we were receiving on the VHF from the Irish coastguard were not talking about any significant change in wind direction. The 'Ugrib' info we gathered last week is now useless and our next update will be off the Scilly's.

Gareth had a closer look at our three sources of conflicting tidal info for the Irish sea and emerged with another cunning plan.

Our tacks as essential east or south. The tide runs up and down the irish sea. We go east when the tide goes out and south when the tide goes in. The result is we get to the Scilly's in around 28 hours!

This plan works if the wind stays in the SE. I over simplify the above for sea state, and drift 'leeway'

At 2200 we switch to port tack, on a btw bearing of @180 deg.

We take the unusual step of agreeing our plan with red watch. It dawns on us that after over 1400miles of sailing the introduction of this joined up approach could well be the step forward we have been seeking.

To date such collaboration has been constrained to essentials such as food.

We all like this plan, it means tacking every six ours which means we can do continue to do nothing most of the time.

We stay on port tack for 5 more hours hoping the tide likes our plan too.

Very strong 'county cork' accents from the coastguard announce something unintelligible to do with the weather.

At 2230 we were 130nm from Bishop's rock on the Scilly's. And we had a plan. I wondered if Jill was on the Scilly's and hoped she was ok. She had talked about going while I was playing out.

Red watch returned 2200- 0200hrs

Ken Allison, Blue Watch Leader,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Red watch came on 0200 - 0600hrs

Red watch arrived on deck. The sea seemed huge and angry now, with waves regularly dowsing the cockpit and with the wind pushing into 30knots on the bow. An exhilarating and exhausting situation for those on deck.

The blackness was often near absolute with neither star nor horizon to steer to.

As red watch came on I handed over the helm to Steven. The rest of blue watch were already heading downstairs.

This was one of the few occasions, (since we rounded the fastnet rock last year, facing a difficult sea state), that I detected the hard, determined edge to his character. This strength is usually hidden behind his kind, reflective, and often hilarious outlook on life.

It was unusual for Steve to take the wheel. He, like Gareth, is an expert at the helm, and when he steps in at the start of a shift you know he's either bored or the situation is rather serious.

I was shattered, Steven knew it. The adrenalin flooding through me meant I was oblivious. and I admit to being disappointed to be 'letting go'!

At my tender age of 50 I meet many 'experts' through my work as a civil engineer and manager. In a boat I'm definitely not an expert!

Steven calmly asked me the two or three short questions that gave him all the information he needed about the tricky and potentially hazardous situation he was about to manage. I forget what he said but he also managed, to include a compliment that really lifted me.

I let go and commenced the acrobatics needed to get from the wheel to the side of the cockpit in a rough sea force 6 at 60degrees! Under Steven's charge, I could physically feel the boat relax.

As I landed seated by John, I realised my briefing had included reference to a star no longer visible. I had not been particularly helpful to my friend.

A few minutes later I was in the warmth of the cabin heading to the bunk.

An illustration now arose revealing Gareth, our Skippers, people skills. This was remarkable and even more so as he must also have been exhausted at the time.

There was a brief but potentially unhelpful altercation on the shift change between two blue watch helmsmen.

One felt the other was pushing the boat too hard and those on deck were getting unnecessarily wet. The exchange was not convivial!

The skipper Gareth, spotting the risk of escalation, intervened immediately. He reflected that both had weaknesses in their helming skills (the feedback) and should focus on these not other people (the target). They should both therefore just f*****g get on with it!(the empowerment!).

This classical leadership style, provided feedback, set a target, and empowered both. The immediate outcome, All went to sleep!

This altercation, perhaps illustrates how passionate the guys on this boat are about the race and about looking after each other.

Red watch continued to steer their southerly heading. This was later referred to by blue watch as 'the banana route'!

Blue watch came on 0600 - 1200hrs

Having followed the 'banana route' (red watch claim to have been headed a lot!!) We were now 32 nautical miles west of the Bull Rock.

The wind was 25 knots, falling to 20 but in the SE and so not very helpful.

Most importantly and of much more interest than the race, Gary and Brett were reunited during the night! Now officially bunking together again following their trial separation.

However, all may not be as it seems. There are extenuating circumstances that lead to worry that the rapprochment could be short lived.

On moving to the saloon, taking up residence in the single bunk, Gary promptly broke it! Now of no fixed abode, wandering the yacht in his spinlock, Gary was abruptly refused a threesome with Ken and Gareth. Hence one could cynically assume his overtures to Brett may well have a practical rather than romantic motive. We will see.

I digress,

Now too far west, we must sort our tactics if Santander is not to join Norway in our collection of wayward detours. At 0630 blue watch stumble into action and tack to 90 degrees, now heading to close on Ireland yet again and wondering if the promised South wind will rescue our race.

The Dolphins come to lift our spirits, loads of them. Several little ones swimming together and clearly loving it. Then the big boys turn up and show us their stuff, making us look so inept. The sea is really rough still, and they keep appearing from nowhere amongst the salt water chaos.

By 0830 48m from fastnet rock at 91degT, but our 'best to wind is too high at around 85deg. We will be 6miles too far north ( we must pass the fastnet to our west or north) unless the wind moves to south.

The other tack is also unhelpful as we are likely to hit heavier in the Atlantic if we go too far west. This is a worry about losing boat speed.

Red watch returned 1200- 1800hrs

Ken Allison, Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR93 Concise 2

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As we go by Loop Head and Limerick...

There once was a boat called Concise

Whose sailing was very precise

It was a class 40

That behaved very naughty

But the results were surprisingly nice

Lawson has a class 40 boat

That does a lot more than float

It's winning its class

So mark my ass,

Concise is worthy of note

The crew from Concise is a handsome lot

Plus a girl who was picked from the dock

They raced around Ireland and Britain

And left all the Hamble girls smitten

But unfortunately suffer from scrot rot

Crew member on NED1499 Beluga

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De Noordzee zijn we af, het was enerverend 40 kts wind en soms frustrerend vanwege het ontbreken van wind (0,0 Nm bij de Doggersbank). De ais signalen waren zwak en er was geen enkel contact met t vaste land behalve een superslechte LW radioverbinding voor een schamel weerberichtje van de BBC. Daardoor waren beslissingen soms moeilijk. We hebben heel veel genuawissels uitgevoerd in verschillende omstandigheden vanwege continu wisselende windsnelheden. Terug naar het zuiden!

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