It’s 21.30 on Friday evening, we started at 08.40 but I have been awake since 5am.
The first few hours of the race have been
pretty intense and our journey towards Eddystone a little bumpy, but the last 2 hours have been quiet. The breeze dropped, we’ve changed to the No.1 headsail and two thirds of the crew are downstairs getting some rest. Boat speed has been low, sometimes as low as 3 knots.
It’s dusk, I’m tired and it’s getting colder. Is that just night time or is the breeze freshening? I’m dry right now so I’ve decided that as soon as someone appears from downstairs I’m going to try and get an hour’s downtime, that way I can stay kitted up in case I’m needed.
Ah, here’s Jen. Brilliant! I slide towards the back of the boat to tell the helm I’m heading downstairs. But before I can say a word Mike, the first mate, says, “It’s up to 16 knots, we need to change to the number three.”
OK – let’s call Tim to helm and get the No 3 on deck. Tim appears, grabs the wheel and off we head to the front of the boat. Mike will deal with the tack whilst I sort out the rest. I pass him the pole up rope. Turn round to sort out the back of the sail and hear a curse. The clip didn’t fasten properly and now the pole up is flying at the back of the boat. Nuts. We’ll use the spinny 2 instead. Unclip that and take it to the front. Mike and I make eye contact that says a mutual, “Hope that doesn’t happen again!” Back along the low side to get the lazy sheet. Immediately, my boot is full of water. I forgot to do up the bottom of my foulies. Schoolboy error! Every moment the boat seems more overpowered, it’s getting wetter. Better hurry.
Climb to the high side and we re-run the sheet – a high pressure bowline this one, can’t afford to get it wrong. Check it. Check it again. One more look – it’s ok.
Back to the mast and I hoist the sail. Ready to tack.
The guys at the back pull off a great tack. We’re hit by a wave that goes straight down the front of my jacket - Ugh. I’m soaked but have to ignore that because we’ve got to pull the number one down and wrestle it up to the top of the boat to be bagged. It’s not pretty but it works.
It’s dark now. I need to catch my breath. I’m back on the rail trying to recover but the skipper is now asking for a reef. Back to the mast. Halyard is released, sail lowered, luff sorted and the reef is in.
I’m now too wet and too wired to rest – that was intense!
I’ll pop downstairs and put some layers on. Now more appropriately dressed I head back to the rail. “We’ve got visitors,” Nikki says. Sure enough, just below my feet a dolphin is swimming along within a foot of the boat, and it’s looking at us. Jen waves and says “Hello Mr.Dolphin.” It accelerates past us, jumps in front of the bow and disappears. A moment later, he’s back with a friend. More waving and hellos.
There are now 5 of us sitting on the rail grinning like maniacs and I don’t feel cold anymore.
Someone says, “Seeing dolphins makes me eternally happy.” And that’s about right. Over the next 20 hours the memory of this moment will put a much needed smile on my face several times.
Thank you Mr. Dolphin.