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Whitbread Log: Leg 1 to Cape Town
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Day 25 - October 15, 1997

17:45 GMT - 28° 09'S, 017° 32'W

Miles to Cape Town: 1,872

Place: 1st; distance ahead of 2nd-place boat: 68 miles

From: Paul Cayard, skipper EF Language

S orry that the reports are a little less frequent. Got a lot on. The boat is flying. I have been thinking about how to describe this to my friends and family. No words can do the experience justice.


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The shuttering, not shaking — the violent jerking of the boat — throws people out of their bunks. On deck, you can't tell if this thing is a boat or a submarine. Because of the water ballast, it sails quite upright and fast at a relatively high angle. The decks are completely awash, sometimes up to one meter. When we change headsails and the boys go forward, you wonder how they can make headway for the force of the water.

Last night I steered for four hours straight and never have I been pelted with a fire hose like that. Several times people simply got washed away until their safety harnesses fetched up. Everything is wet. You don't sleep. You rest out of the wind and water. Everything is staked aft now, trying to keep the bow from submarining. The waves are 15 feet high. This is a sleigh ride like you can't imagine.

On deck, we are pushing the hell out of this crate. We grind the mainsheet constantly to pump the sail, even in 35-knot wind. We hit 30 knots boat speed regularly — 18 knots seems parked.

We hooked into this low pressure system yesterday and are getting the best ride of anyone out of it. Mark Rudiger, our navigator, is to be credited for getting us to invest south right after Trindade, and that little bit of south, 10 miles more than Merit and Kvaerner, turned into 20, then to 40 and now to 80 miles. We will see where it goes.

This is the real Whitbread now. No more Princess Cruise.

Paul Cayard


00:18 GMT - 26° 12'S, 022° 50'W

Miles to Cape Town: 2,075

Place: 1st; distance ahead of 2nd-place boat: 45 miles

From: Mark Rudiger, navigator EF Language

W e have had an 18.9-knot average boat speed for the last four hours and still going! Unbelievable water flying and boat jerking around.

Last report I mentioned as we rounded Trindade Island the real tactical navigational race was going to begin. It has so far had all the components of a chess game combined with the physical stamina and finesse of a football game.

Our strategy to try to work south of Merit Cup and Kvaerner to try to pick up the pressure and angle of a developing low paid off, and within two days we had a 35-mile lead. We were able to take some of that and position ourselves to cover without a loss.

What I hadn't anticipated was almost too much of a good thing. The low we were chasing blossomed into a 994 millibar-and-deepening system, and started moving closer as it passed to our south with a large cold front.

As I watched the barometer drop from 1016 to 1009.8 mb — along with a recent satellite image that showed us about to exit an aggressive front — I warned Paul and crew, but under estimated, as we were soon broad reaching in 35 knots of wind half under water. All hands were quickly on deck and we peeled from the 1.5 masthead to the heavy fractional, and later to the J3 reacher, then a reef.

This crew is tough and talented, and it was because of their hard work that EF Language won another battle at the sked time, gaining a couple of miles on Merit Cup and four or five on Kvaerner. They were hard-earned miles, but out here you take it any way you can get it.

We are now power reaching along, trying to hang on to the back side of this low as long as possible to try to stretch our lead a little more. You can't have enough in ocean racing, as there is always an obstruction lurking over the horizon waiting to upset your apple cart.

Back to trying to clean up items tossed all around the nav station and plug leaks to keep electronics, computers (and maybe even the navigator) dry.

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