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Crew member on GBR8191R British Soldier

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From 0336 Sat

As at 2220 Mon

It has been tough going since Muckle Flugga. As races go, the last 3 days

have been some of the hardest for all of us, regardless of experience. We

are glad to still be racing and we will also just be glad to complete the

course. Having had no comms we have wondered how the other boats have fared

and hope that none had difficulties in the bad weather. And having only

just got signal we had no idea where anyone is in the fleet so are still

sailing hard.....


We were beating from the outset on Saturday, and by late afternoon were

hard on the wind with not much sail - storm jib and 3 reefs. seeing us

through the rising 30 knots or so. Our light J boat was not built for

punching headfirst into big offshore seas but nonetheless the old

catchphrase "sail her like you stole her!" was wheeled out and the helm

was urged to sail hard and fast! Sleep was a question of lying below in wet

oilskins and deluding yourself for a few hours that you might be asleep. It

was on Saturday the Satphone made a bid for a small puddle of bilge water

and falling off a large wave bounced it from its safe place - and despite

being instantly fished out it was not happy. Even a gentle dry-out in the

oven (some were highly amused at "baking the satphone") was not enough to

coax it back into life, leaving us without communications. A serious error

but with a forecast of NW gale arriving soon there were other issues closer

to hand.


Early sunday morning saw the wind steadily rise from the NW. We held our

storm jib and 3 reefs for as long as possible but at around 0900 off the

Isle of Lewis it rose to 35 and we were broaching regularly - so the

trysail quickly went up. NW winds of gale gusting severe gale threw up huge

rolling seas seemingly to the masthead height (but were probably more like

10m). With everyone already tired from nearly two days of beating into a

gale the skipper took the helm and headed SW, weaving in and out of big

breaking seas which could have engulfed the boat if caught at the wrong

angle. At one point George, allowing Phil a quick break, managed to get

taken off his feet by a wave, which in turn set off his lifejacket, much to

everyone's amusement and his irritation! Reaching St Kilda (our turning

point 30 miles NW of the Isle of Lewis) after ten hours and around 100

miles under trysail was an incredible sight. 40-45 knots of wind driving

mountainous seas into these huge islands of rock wreathed in mist and spray

was as terrifying as it was spectacular, as we surfed past at a cautious

distance that felt far too close. To say we were relieved to turn downwind

then having escaped injury or damage would be an understatement.


Now past St Kilda, we are finally able to drive off the wind

for the longest time in a week - the boat is now not permanently

sideways! Since

then the winds have dropped steadily to a gusty 12- 20 knts, the orange

sails are away and we are surfing our way down towards the western coast of

Ireland. While putting away the trysail, a fish jumped out of the water and

hit George in the face at the wheel which was a highlight of the day! Now

all of his clothes smell of fish (as well as everything else they already

smelt of). We have managed to get a new record speed for the trip as well

at 18.4 knts! Morale is up now that the sun is finally out, and we start to

think about the final days of the race and enjoy the ride downwind to

Ireland. And as we tidy the boat a "lost property" box has been

established, although mostly filled with only Will's kit so far..

British Soldier.


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