Busy Busy Bustle

Everyone has gone quiet when it comes to writing up all that is going on... in fact with a calendar of briefings and meetings growing by the day and just over 24 hours to go the start of the race it's no surprise that no one among the skippers has had the time to post new stories.

The parties of the beginning of the week are sadly had to be reduced to a sober professional busy activity, last minutes preps, skipper briefing about to start and so on.

All is ready on British Beagle, the boat is locked with all on board, no further changes.

Going into rehab

I've checked with my doctor after the abundant drinking of the last few days and he said i should really cut down. When? i asked. Immediately! He said. After some negotiation we settled for monday 25th at 12:30. He booked me in for the Organic Solo Therapeutic Atlantic Rehab renowned for fortifying body and spirit. Derived from thalassotherapy, the technique involves prolonged periods of sitting in uncomfortable postures whilst buckets of sea water are thrown at your face. They say this helps your weary mind rediscover the priorities in life and shed a bright new light on things.

OSTAR party time, GMT, BST or something like that

Finally the OSTAR skippers look like a real crowd, with italians dutch, irish, american, austrian and british representatives around the table the all important bonding between the skippers is well under way... In less than a week we'll be out there on our own and we will be looking after each other. In such a race, with only ocean and no escort another competitor is often the most likely source of help like we have recently seen in many recent offshore races.

Peter Bourke sails into QAB

Peter Bourke, only american competitor in OSTAR just sailed in QAB and if you wonder why his picture has the distinct feel of a finish line shot let's not forget Peter has just sailed once the distance of an OSTAR, he set off from Newport RI about 3 weeks ago! With only a short 2 day stop over at the Azores he looked totally unfazed by the heavy weather he and his crew encountered over the last few days and frankly you'd have thought he came in from somewhere nearby but his accent revealed his dedication to be here at the start of OSTAR. Welcome Peter!

Warning up after the storm

Finally the wind has abated, enough of an excuse to gather for a drink: brant, eddy, collins, zoccoli marina, nannini, hurley, westermann, tortolani.

Still blowing a gale, deliveries to the start delayed

The weather has been real unkind to anyone that was hoping to take their boat to plymouth this weekend. After the gale last night we had a break today when the sky broke open and the sun came shining as the wind seemed to lose its teeth, but here i am again in QAB rocking unplesantly and with the fenders squeeking horribly.
I spoke to several of the skippers that are still in the solent and all deliveries to plymouth had to be postponed due to the bad weather...

David and Goliath

Today i finally caught up with Bart and we exchanged views on the race. We rate very similar and last year we were always neck and neck in the qualifier. Bart is faster with the wind off the beam but i could just inch forward when beating hard so we are both looking forward to the race as we can truly say it will be the best or luckiest between the two of us to cross first. We're now at the barbican enjoying a beer and waiting for luca zoccoli to join us so we can start to mix and mingle...

Reality check

I've left work with a bit of apprehension but the obvious excitement that precedes a 'holiday'. Today was my last day at the office and i'll now be off for 6 weeks, 1 before the race, an estimated 4 to cross, a week to lift the boat out in the states and catch the first flight from boston straight back to the office.

Life raft? That'll be terminal 2 please

Here i am at 3:42am in a rather unlikely place to be with days to spare to the start of OSTAR: on a taxi to Heathrow. I'm not trying to cheat the rules by flying to Newport, just going on a day business trip to Munich.
Waking up was no problem, the level of tension in my mind and body has been building steadily and i now tend to be so wired that when the alarm clock went off i jumped off the bed trying to figure where i was and what i was supposed to do, then the taxi driver called saying he was lost and it all made sense again...

Boxes Bruises and Fate

I left British Beagle glistening in the sun, still ashore in YHQ Plymouth, she will be launched on friday at high tide late in the afternoon.
AS i started to buy some of the provisions for the trip I got extra lucky at Morrisons where they had the clip top transparent boxes on offer at half price, the cashier was a bit confused, he didnt know whether he should ask what I was going to do with all those boxes or better steer clear of confrontation with a madman.

Finally into the trade winds

The struggle to reach the stable trade winds seems to have lasted an
eternity, the fleet progress has been very slow compared to the schedule
we had imagined when leaving Punta del Este and only Cessna at the front
has been keeping steady averages since reaching these steady winds a day
ahead of us.

So far and for several days we seemed to have fairly stable winds at night
then we'd get stopped during the day in flukey winds and sudden rain
showers caused presumably by the high temperatures and moist air becoming
unstable. This morning for the first time the winds held strong after
sunrise and the sky is unmistakeably changed, little white fluffy clouds
are scattered regularly around instead of massive cumulus formations
typical of the unstable air masses of the last few days, see the photo for
an example.

We've emerged from this section of the race in second place squeezing a
lead of 60 miles over Phesheya, our gamble to go offshore at Cabo Frio
paid off eventually. I think we can now expect a drag race to the doldrums
where things could get shaken again. I may be wrong so we'll certainly
keep a watchful eye on the Dutch and the Southafrincans and try cover our
backs from a likely attack...

We had a few issues with the NKE electronics suddenly losing the boat
speed reading, then the compass reading, all misteriously working again by
simply powering off an on the system, luckily all the problems occurred
in light airs and not while sailing with the big spinnaker in strong winds
like during leg 3 when a similar failure caused the boat to go off in a
big gybe resulting in the big spinnaker to be torn in half (and
subsequently repaired in Punta del Este).

Another misterious source of worry came from the primary alternator we
rely on to charge the batteries, for 2 consecutive days it seemed to have
given up the ghost, only to wake up gingerly this morning and resume
service as if nothing had ever happened.

So far, save for a spinnaker sheet which I quite stupidly lost overboard
during a manouvre we havent really had any damage or serious problems,
let's hope things carry on like this to make Charleston a stress free and
cheap stopover. The budget has long ago been totally depleted. In Punta we
were being hosted in free accommodation by the Yacht Club Punta del Este
and for the other expenses i relied on the generosity of many readers who
have sent donations through www.marconannini.com/help which i'm very
grateful for. We're hoping to find a host family during our relatively
brief Charleston stopover and hopefully the price of food will be no where
near the inflated prices of Punta del Este where an espresso could cost
over 3 euros! For now we're getting in the swing of our freeze dried diet,
the last fresh item, an apple, was eaten yesterday.