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We have just had another watch change following our 'blue watch' 0200 to 0600 stint.

This saw an early lovely sunrise turning into a grey cloudy sky promising stronger winds.

The medium heavy number 1 was used till 530 with the wind gradually increasing from below 10 knots to a better 13 knots. This was getting too much for the ,m/h1 so the number 3 was raised at 530.

The change went as follows, aiming to keep the boat speed with a head sail working at all times. We set the 3 ready on deck, tacked and raised it inside the m/h1, tacked again and dropped the m/h 1.

This sail change followed a quiet discussion about the options. With the wind building against a dark grey horizon and the number 1 approaching its upper limit, and most important,the reputation of blue watch to make the right sail calls at stake, the decision was made. All went smoothly or seemed to from my vantage point on the helm. Gary was on the bow (and managed to keep dry). Gareth on the mast and calling the shots in his clear calm no nonsense way. Greg in the cockpit. Me (Ken) on the helm trying desperately not to screw up the tacks for the guys.

Two big successes through these strange early hours were;

We've found Steve's fastnet jacket, mysteriously arranged in the form of Gareth's pillow in the aft port bunk!

And the really really good news, I found the gorilla tape in the winch pocket on deck.

The bad news, no-one believes me, they think I had it all along. Especially Gary and he's got big Nick, red watch leader, on his side!

Hence, the lynch mob (Gary's mates) are gathering at the Anchor in Cowes. They'll be well tanked up by the time we get there so I'm stuffed!

Now we have red watch on duty with Nick as watch leader, just made the drinks. John's on helm with Martin on the main.

Steven's keeping a general eye out as usual. He's co-owner and co-skipper of Cheeki Rafiki and a very experienced sailor. He's done lots of work with Skipper Gareth. I first met these two last year when we started training for the fastnet. Speaking as a novice sailor I couldn't have found a kinder and solid pair of tutor's and mentor's.

Now we are in the Forties oil field, with the huge rigs dominating a view that would otherwise be sea forever. Sad memories of a school friend who died in the Piper Alpha disaster.

All our attention has moved to getting to the Orkney s, well that and what to eat next! Nick's just checking the race instructions. Would a solicited offer of 'whipped cream for our hot chocolate' from the nearly oil rig really be a fatal infringement?

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

-----Original Message----- From: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 05:36:50 To: RBI RORC BLOG Reply-To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Cc: My hotmail Subject: Re: GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

It's 615 and we're off the Thames having changed watches at 6. Nick's now on helm with John on main. Steven on Nav with Martin in the cockpit. Gareths brewing up with Brett, Gary and me already off for a kip.

The night went well with the Jibtop doing its job. Wind on the beam around 15knots, building to low 20's from 430am. Gary did lots of helming, and being a tiller man, he is quickly sorting his nemesis otherwise known as 'the wheel'. Gary also handled the Nav getting us through the tricky stuff after the huge spooky windfarm.

Gareth's huge joke book came out at 5. Its a cheap one and not for sensitve types. There's a scottish section for later in the week. Like the one about........

Now for a snooze while Nick, Steve, John and Martin reach us up the Anglian coastline. The big questions for today are 'do we go to the number 3'?, 'can we be bothered to catch Encore!'. And 'will the joke book survive?'

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

-----Original Message----- From: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 02:36:23 To: RBI RORC BLOG; My hotmail Reply-To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject: GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

Well we are 2 miles from Ramsgate. Now on the two watch system, 66444hrs.

Nick, Steven, Martin and John having a snooze.

Brett's on the helm with Gary on the main. Gareth getting the weather update and doing the nav(thank fully) and Ken (me) doing the blog.

Bearing 20degrees ish.

Wind has dropped to 11 knots, clear starry sky with the full moon behind us.

The run along the south coast was great with 30+ winds and some good surfing.

Were all suprised to hear leopard has retired, it's one less to beat!

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Blue shift were off from 0600 till 1200.

Around 1000, Nick from Red shift was heard on the HF seeking weather advice. The only response came from a bored sounding brummy from 'W100' presumably a rig. He didn't have a forecast but was kind enough to look out of his window and tell us how it was. He described exactly what we could see. W100 was clearly the huge monster of a structure on the horizon.

We were now some 60 miles east of our rumb line. This is the line from our way point off the Norfolk coast to our way point off the NE tip of Shetland. we had chosen to sail 'best to wind' on a port tack accepting we would gradually head east of this line. The gamble was when to make the required tack to the west. If the wind came round to the west or south it would bring us back on course, but most likely the tack would be needed eventually on the 500 mile leg.

At 1630 following numerous short discussions, weighing the odds, interspersed with humour, food, and general trimming stuff Gareth decided it was time, so we tacked. 60 miles to the rhum line meant the next strategic decision (wind and tides permitting) would be at least 10 hours away, and more likely 15 hours as we would need to over shoot to make Shetland on one further tack.

This tack to the west brought us between huge oil rigs, looking like something out of a science fiction nightmare.

Then came the squall with the wind picking up instantly, out smarting me on the helm, spinning the boat to port until it eased and we settled back our routine of beating as close to wind as possible whilst keeping up the boat speed. Bret was by me on the main sharing hints and tips gained from his racing experience in Australia.

Sleepless Steve once again did a marvellous job, producing hot pies at the start of the shift and cheese sandwiches at the end. Gareth slipped in a pot noodle in the middle.

Gary did more helming, and is clearly overcoming his phobia of the wheel. He is a great guy, full of jokes and really keen on the sailing. He has his own J boat on the Solent, which he clearly loves .

After lots of 'crac' the end of this shift seemed to come quickly with the arrival of the dolphins, at least four including a baby and a big male. Hopefully the photos will be good.

'The Orkneys are north of Shetland', I insisted to a bemused disbelieving Gary. He was right and I realised how tired I am. I expect we are all the same and there's another Week to go!

Going well so far, this bizarre life at 45 degrees. Wonder where the other boats are?

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Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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We on blue watch have just finished our 2200 till 0200 shIft.

Red watch have come on and gone straight to a sail change to the m/h nr 1, as the wind is now below 7 knots and the nr 3 is no longer performing well. This makes for 6 sail changes in the last 24 hours.

Overnight we continued our tack to the west. Earlier in the evening we were at one point 120miles from both scotland and Norway. We then tacked to head north when the bearing to the top of Shetland was a sailable 355 degrees.

We now have 160 miles to go to the top of Shetland, so we should be rounding Shetland around 0800hrs on the 28th,

Our last shift from 2200hrs has been dominated by views of the absolutely massive oil and gas platforms, including a close encounter with one of the huge search and rescue vessels, a 268ft monster according to the AIS. Their spotlight turned our night into day whilst they satisfied their curiosity.

Interesting chat overnight, ranging from Shroedingers kittens, to Stephen Hawkins and Katie Melua, then passing through literal drift to the computer on Red Dwarf. The usefulness of the Russian language also got a mention.

The joke book hasn't reappeared for some time.

Red shift with Nick. Steven, John and Martin will now continue to work us through the oilfields until we take over again from 0600 until 1200. We'll be able to start by picking up a weather report on the long wave radio that Martin produced earlier. We are far too raf offshore for the VHF so it'll be interesting to see if we can decipher the long wave crackle.

This is such a vast place that my admiration, but not envy, for the fishing guys I grew up with in Scarborough grows by the day.

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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Big cheer! Its now less than a hundred miles to 'Out Stack' our northern most mark. We are now 15 miles off the east coast of the Orkneys in a north sea I hadn't imagined existed with waves of less than 2 metre. There is an atmosphere of expectation, wondering when the rough stuff starts. It's like drinking in a rough bar without an invite, knowing the locals have clocked you and are not too happy.

This latest shift (0600 to 1200 hrs) for blue watch was really good fun with all in good spirits. We treated the whole shift as a sprint to the 100mile mark, with the 8-10 knot nw wind we beat up at 340 making nearly averaging 7.5knots .

We haven't seen land for three days now and haven't a clue where the other Class 1 and 2 boats are! Will there be a scrum at the mark?

Early on we did some cleaning of the boat with the obligatory washing up (salt water). We've also refilled our 44litres of water bottles from the tanks. We use the water from the bottles (2L max per day each) and so track what is left in each tank. So far so good.

Those amazing silver grey dolphins have been back at least twice, buzzing the boat hoping for food, a race or sex. They didn't get any although Nick looked very happy when he came back on watch!

The joke book made a brief re-appearance, seeming funnier than last time, or is hysteria starting to take hold on board?

We passed the burnt out shell of Piper Alpha, this stands like a sad, awful, iconic epitaph to the poor souls who lost their lives. Let's hope lessons were learned.

This shift was a classic lesson in sail trimming and helming with Gary, Bret and Ken worked the head sail, main and wheel respectively. For the last 20mins Gareth took the helm to effortlessly show how it is really done.

Being out at sea (120 at one stage) without a sat phone, we believe our blogs and position reports haven't gone since early on the 24th. Hopefully they'll go when we come close to Shetland. Then we have the leg to Ireland. The tracker will hopefully be doing it's job though via the satellites.

Looking forward we intend to head up past Shetland far enough to tack and beat west at around 220deg. There's more to it with the tides and the unknowns of the weather but that's the basic idea.

Must mention the food, porridge for breakfast followed by dried apricots! As we kip down Martin from red shift has kindly rustled up the sausage rolls. I forgot to mention we had a late dinner on our 2200 - 0200 stint kindly prepared by gourmet Gary with help from sleepless Steve. Some sort of very tasty casserole and rice.

Red watch are now back on duty. Martin sorting some food, Nick smiling on the helm following the dolphin encounter, Stephen still awake and John on the main.

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Crew member on GBR9793T Cheeki Rafiki

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And red shift just did a record breaker for us (blue) to beat, covering 49Nm on the 6hrs from 1200 to 1800hrs. We (blue watch) took on the challenge and sailed straight into force 6's, no excuses though, the red boys won the day.

The wind picked up from 1800, still north west with heavy cumulus in the near and far distance giving wind shear headaches for the helm.

We're on the nr 3 sail now following red shifts sail change around 1400hrs.

The shetlands are visible in low cloud on the port horizon. They looked beautiful as the sunset, but clearly tough place to live.

Before the watch change we had a long discussion about our course between Nick, Gary, Ken and John trading off the options, keeping tight to Shetland on 350 or being cautious on 000. We went for 000 knowing we can review later. This took is 8nm east of. The Skerries lighthouse , we then headed best to wind going hard for Lamba.

Great meal half way through from Gareth.

A really lively helming game if you like belting towards the squalls in poor visibility!

Got a text from my son reminding us to take a hard left soon! They are obviously watching the track back home.

Red watch are back on now with Nick on the helm aiming to get us to the top. We'll take over again at 0200, to finish the job and head round the top before looking for Ireland.

What an amazing race.

Ken Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

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