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25 October 2005, 02:29 pm
At The Mercy Of The Elements
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Round Britain And Ireland Challenge 2005

The crews onboard the Round Britain And Ireland Challenge yachts have received the expected bashing by the elements, and despite a wind direction change, they are back hard on the wind this morning. Spirit of Sark's westerly move during yesterday has paid off in terms of position, and Des HARVEY's team have taken the top spot once again, leading Me to You by seven miles.
Meanwhile, life onboard has been quite exciting, as described by Jason FRIEND, a 34 year old Police Officer, who is sailing onboard SAIC, 'Our second experience of a gale is quite different from the conditions we saw off of the Western Isles of Scotland. The seas in the North Sea are much shorter and steeper. This has given us a much more violent motion and has meant we are getting a whole lot wetter!!'

FRIEND has sailed since a young age, but was looking to further his sailing experience, 'For my part today, I started off getting very wet, filling my boots with sea water helping with the staysail to storm sail change and then went on the helm for a while. This was quite an experience with the seas breaking over and the driving rain not helping me to dry out. The violent motion of the boat falling off of the larger waves knocked me clean off my feet on a few occasions. This is all a part of why we are here though and all the time we are pushing further south and nearer the finish.'

Phil LOWERY, a 38 year old general manager sailing onboard Me to You, agrees, 'Most of us (including me) signed up secretly hoping that we would get some of these conditions, which probably helps to explain why spirits are still high amongst the whole crew - although I think we all have the occasional 'So just why am I doing this?' feeling when we are getting on deck in already wet clothes for the start of a 3am watch.

'We are also getting rather adept at walking nonchalantly around the boat at an angle of 30 degrees or more with a boil in the bag in one hand, a coffee in the other and carrying out conversation as if it was all completely normal!' He adds.

It is strange how even two weeks on a yacht can alter your perception of normal life. The past 48 hours have has a mix of conditions, but the storm overnight has been a impressive one. Onboard Pindar, Simon MARSHALL, a Chartered Surveyor, sent back this report, 'Yankee three, storm staysail and three reefs in the mainsail were soon followed by the try sail. And then just after lunch - WHALLOP!!. True wind speeds maxed out at 44 knots and a boat speed of ten knots launched our mighty steed into some spectacular waves.

'For those nervous friends and family watching the weather, do not worry. We are all fine, morale very high, the boat is bullet-proof and we are under the control of a very able skipper and mates.'

Stephen DURKIN, first mate on Spirit of Sark, has written today, 'Well we find ourselves in a full gale yet again, so once again all the day to day tasks on board Spirit of Sark have become extreme events even brushing your teeth takes your full concentration. At the moment Fiona [CAMPBELL] is on the helm and managing to find waves big enough to launch most of the boat out of the water which is pretty impressive considering the boat weighs the best part of 45 tonnes.'

The fleet is approaching land once again, and are somewhere off the coast of Norfolk. The next major waypoint is the Dover Straits, where they turn west and head for the finish. They will be hoping for an easier point of sail once they 'turn the corner' as the English Channel is greatly tidal and the yachts will be restricted where they can sail by the Traffic Separation Schemes, which do not allow them to cross the routes of cargo ships.

The leaders will be hoping to get through without meeting any tidal currents that are against them, as they could be held up for several hours if they arrive at the wrong time and miss a 'tidal gate'. Spirit of Sark and Me to You's lead of 30 miles is quite slim if they get held up for even a few hours, allowing the fleet to concertina.

Kerry Dye. Image, A grin from the helmsman of Spirit of Sark:© Challenge Business
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