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Whitbread Log: Leg 6
São Sebastião to Ft. Lauderdale

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  We got a 37-knot puff coupled with a steep wave and buried the bow 3 feet under water. I thought that was it, she was gone . . . the rig that is.
Day 1 - March 14, 1998

0443 GMT
23° 05'S, 042° 01'W

Miles to Ft. Lauderdale: 4,383

Place: 4th; distance behind 1st-place boat: 7 miles

From: Paul Cayard, Skipper, EF Language

What a day this was. First the start. I would guess that there were 1,500 boats out to see the fleet off. Normally, we have a "starting box" that is off limits to the spectators. This gives us a chance to get off the line and usually a few hundred meters into the race before the flotilla files in for an up close inspection.

Well, we had a "starting box," but all the spectators were in it, as well as the fleet. It was a bit chaotic, but we managed to get away unscathed but not in the best of positions.

We had a westerly breeze 10 minutes before the start that switched to a northeaster just after the start, and then back to southwesterly about a half-hour into the race. Kvaerner led for the first 10 miles, with Swedish Match and Brunel close behind. We passsed Merit Cup near the end of the channel and closed on the others as the breeze died.

We all fell into a big hole at the southern side of the island of São Sebastião and passed the better part of four hours going 8 miles. Finally, a breeze filled in from the southwest and we all took off, with Chessie and Silk Cut, who had been last and second to last out of the channel, leading the way.

The wind filled and soon we had our fractional spinaker on, reaching in 28 knots of wind. This wind soon gave way to a more lifted wind and we set the masthead spinnaker known as "Big Kahuna." I think that means big wind or wave in Hawa|an.

Somewhere along the road, in the black of the night, we got a 37-knot puff coupled with a steep wave and buried the bow 3 feet under water. I thought that was it, she was gone . . . the rig that is. But Stevie did a good job to hold on to her.

However, we nearly did a round-down and wiped out all our starboard-side stanchions. Further, 6 sails were dragging behind the boat, overboard. We took the spinnaker down right away, got the sails back on board — each and everyone of them — and cleaned up the mess.

This whole scene forced us to sail with no spinnaker for about half an hour and a fractional spinnaker under its range for another half an hour. But the main thing was that we did not damage the mast, the spinnaker, or anything else that we deem important. WE WERE VERY LUCKY!

So, today was a flashback to the second leg, where the same thing happened. It was an unusual sea — left-over northeasterly with the new southwesterly filling fast and hard. It was just the odd wave and the odd puff out of a weather system that created the major bow dive.

We completely inspected the mast before rehoisting the Big Kahuna, which is up now.

So, we went a little slower for an hour and lost about 6 miles on the group. I have seen some lights in front of us and some behind, so I guess we are somewhere in the middle. Next sched is in 1.5 hours.

Right now, we are cruising along at 16 knots in 24 knots of wind. This is more pleasant than predicted. The trip to Cabo Frio will be a quick one at this rate.

The breeze is coming up, so I had better go have a look around.

Paul Cayard
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Leg 6 positions at 1900 GMT today:
  1. Toshiba
  2. Innovation Kvaerner
  3. Chessie Racing
  4. EF Language (P. Cayard, skipper)
  5. Merit Cup
  6. Silk Cut
  7. Swedish Match
  8. EF Education
  9. BrunelSunergy
* Aggregate points total, including points scored for the first, second, third and fourth legs and points for the fifth leg according to current positions.

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