Coping with racing … day after day

Today is Thursday morning … although it could be two days ago or
next Tuesday. That’s the thing about sailing in open oceans – it gives you
two things:

1) Deja vue (is this Groundhog day?)
2) Undinting respect for the sailors in times before who set sail to cross
oceans with no promise of return + not too much in the way of high tech
navigational equipment either.

The watch system – by which we live our lives – breaks life down into small
packets of time, now + what are we doing next. There is no too much
agonising about the past + done deeds, sailing as best you can at this
moment, a great deal of consideration over the next manoeuvre + getting it
right + then a more nebulous consideration of future objectives (like
next meal, winning the race etc.).

Some people get bored by the repetition others don’t + it is interesting to
see how people cope.

There are people like Mick (RTW, retired naval architect, all round really
interesting chap + crew engineer) who do stuff. Mick is always mending
things, making things, helm, on his notebook doing theoretical calculations
as to how we could make better use of current wind conditions, do critical,
practical stuff about which they know a great deal … There is Brian who
smokes, eats, smokes a bit more, does some helming, smokes a bit more …
There are people like Jean (RWT, all round friendly lady) who talk to others
a lot, tell good stories, listen to music, do a bit of crewing duty (pull
ropes when told etc.) + generally help create a social medium which help the
crew rub along … There are the odd-balls (I’ll pass over this category)
some leave the crew being understood a little better + some have caused upset
… And then there are the Young Bucks who know a thing or two about sailing.
These divide into two categories; the do-ers (sail trim here, steering
correction there) and the tacticians.

On account of the lack of wind this has been a tactical race + the Nav
Station is like the Ops Room at Bomber Command HQ (minus the WRAF croupiers
+ the ops table). There has been endless pouring over the “forecasts” (on
an accuracy of 1-10 these can rate any where from probable to total
fiction), over the charts and basically simply trying to second-guess what
the wind is going to do. But all that said … so far the Young Bucks seem
to be getting it right because improbably as it might seem we are somewhere
amongst the leaders.

Trouble is being in the lead requires the wind and yesterday we didn’t have
any. In fact yesterday was a bit of a day on its own for a couple of reasons.

The wind died + we had our first taste of being in the doldrums.

The other reason we hit or were hit by something. Tuesday night there was a
thud at sunset + the boat slowed down noticeably. It was the lack of wind we
said (added to which a Booby came + perched on the top of our mask). We then
slowed + slowed (no wind) but the boat wasn’t handling correctly. We tried
gybing + just for good measure in the middle of the night Krzysztof (one of
our Polish watch leaders) attempted to scare off the booby by flashing his
torch. Come the morning we still had the booby but no speed. Desperate
measures – Adas (the other Polish watch leader) was sent under the boat to
investigate … to find a large net with a trapped dead sea turtle.

It is amazing the impact of the loss of luggage – at that moment the boat
handling improved, the wind picked up, the booby crapped on Krzysztof + took
off, the boat started sailing + we all cheered (you have to smile at small
triumphs – the booby’s was certainly a triumph!)

And today … once again it is meltingly hot + after a windless night we now
have a decent breeze. I am sitting in the Nav Station temporarily liberated
from my life jacket to improve the air flow + leaning at a rakish 20 degrees
to the left, right foot braced against the threshold to stop me sliding off
the seat + we are sailing SE at a heady 10 knots …


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