Rolex Transatlantic – Day 8

May 29, 2005   

Another great sailing day -- nearly flat water, clear skies, hot weather, strong following wind, our biggest spinnaker up for all 24 hours, and even a small wind shift to help us down the course. It really doesn't get any better.Our Sunday isn't quite over. We are running the boat's clock on UCT – the old Greenwich Mean Time -- so Sunday ends for us four hours earlier than on the East Coast. But it looks like another 250-plus miles for 24 hours. We are near the midpoint of the course in seven-plus days, which we consider excellent.

Right now we are out of touch with other fleet positions. That information comes through a Globalstar satellite, and between the continents there is a gap, which we are now crossing. So we do not know how we stand in the fleet rankings, but we know that 250-mile days cannot be all bad.

And hot weather to boot. Most everyone was barefoot and in shorts today, which seems incredible. We are still south of the Gulf Stream in very warm water, and on the same latitude as New York, Madrid and Rome. The boat continues to dry out and make living happy.

The crew did major maintenance today. Ashley again went up the rig to re lead the spinnaker halyard that was originally lost however, on her way up the rig she ripped her thumbnail half off. The incident occurred when the crew member hoisting her up the rig stopped the winch to readjust. As the rig was pitching around Ashley put her hands around the sides of the rig while waiting. At the same time the main flopped forward and back. By coincidence when it flopped back against the rig Ashley’s thumb was caught between the full length batten pocket and the mast. When the crew member pulling Ashley up the rig started to hoist he did not understand Ashley's call to HOLD, her thumb was still caught between the fully powered up main and the mast. Ashley ended up hanging upside down trying to stop herself from being pulled against her thumb. By the time Ashley was dropped back down the rig her nail was hanging on but there was a lot of blood.  In steps our ER Dr. Kevin McMeel with needles which Ashley hates and he puts it all right. Ashley however, has been told to stay put in the salon with her arm in the air until the swelling has subsided.  Tomas Mark, who knew the hours-long procedure from his days as Tempest’s first mate, went up and finished fishing the missing spinnaker halyard inside the mast. He got a round of cheers and applause when he came back to the deck.Will Hubbard learned new skills. With the industrial sewing machine he repaired the torn number three jib and patched the number one. Ashley passed along the skill of how to splice on a new halyard shackle, a job we need to do regularly as the steady spinnaker running chafes the existing end of the line. We switched guys on the spinnaker, again to replace chafed line. Ruud Blanc resealed the joint where the mast passes through the deck, thus heading off water leakage near electrical connections. Racing puts big strains on a boat, and this maintenance is unglamorous but vital.

Friends and families can be assured that we are well fed. For lunch, hot chicken breast sandwiches on pita bread. For dinner, beef Stroganoff.

Here are pencil portraits of the final five crew:

Ashley Perrin, half US and half UK. She is our Wonder Woman. Ashley is the youngest person ever elected to the Royal Ocean Racing Club (at age 15) and she got her UK yachtmaster's theory license at age 16. She can go up and down the mast all day and do anything with the rigging and sails.

Phillip Wilmer, from western Canada, has done unnumbered ocean races. He can straighten out anything in total darkness and roaring seas, and is a great shipmate above and below decks.

Kevin McMeel, another Canadian (and friend of Phil) has unique and vital skills. As an emergency room MD, he fixes our bumps and burns and gives us great reassurance. As a ham radio operator and as our assistant navigator, he downloads satellite weather pictures in real time.

Christian Jensen, our Danish resident of Connecticut, has completed the round-the-world Whitbread race, one of the big, tough races of the world. Christian can do absolutely anything upside down and under water, can fix everything, and this afternoon for amusement cooked up a batch of home-made marmalade.

And finally, the indispensable man, our navigator from London, Michael Lawson. Michael keeps our computers and information network running. Eating, sleeping and working by the nav station day and night, Michael has kept us moving in the fastest winds at the best sailing angle. May his magic persist.

Forecast for tomorrow is that the wind will come ahead, the spinnaker will come down, and that our perfect racing conditions will revert toward the mean. 

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