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17 October 2005, 11:15 am
Spirit Of Sark Takes The Lead
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Round Britain And Ireland Challenge 2005

Spirit of Sark is out in the lead of the Round Britain And Ireland Challenge fleet with skipper Des HARVEY putting a fragile two nautical mile gap against nearest competitor, SAIC skippered by Martin WILD. Another two miles behind again is Samsung, skippered by Will OTTON.
It has been a very calm first couple of days for the crews, Spirit of Sark describing how they are not on a race but rather a 'nature watch!' with a chaffinch, a selection of moths and a hitchhiking bat onboard! In the water the current lead boat was even privileged to be escorted for a while by a pod of dolphins, later replaced by a playful group of porpoises.

The yachts have been changing sails in a desperate attempt to get some boat speed, ever mindful of what they were told at the crew briefing, 'races are won and lost in light airs'.

Spirit of Sark's mate, Andy BUCHANAN expands, 'While the morning ran slowly with sail change after sail change at one point we had half the watch packing the Yankee 1 and the other half packing the 1.5 kite downstairs. After this it went really light with the wind ranging from two knots right up to five knots with the swell we had left over from yesterday this meant a boat speed off 0.00 knots. For most of the afternoon the only thing actually moving us was the tide to keep ourselves going in this time with no wind and fog we started racing the seaweed floating on the water we were doing OK till the tide turned and sent us backwards.

'We finally found some breeze at about 0700 meaning another sail change from spinnaker to Genoa and at long last we were moving again.'

Crew Volunteer, David LACEY, a Solicitor from London, descried similar frustrations onboard SAIC, 'Lifejackets on, spinnaker down, headsails raised, we wait.

'The rain comes, but not the winds for which we had hoped. Instead, the fog closes in: a warm damp fog, clinging to the seas and wrapping itself around us.'

However, the fog made it difficult for the crew to see what was around them. They continued, 'The radar gives some comfort, but nothing replaces the old-fashioned methods - sharp-eyed lookouts posted all round and the regular moan of our quite amusing manual fog horn.'

They were not alone as they deciphered, 'a steady staccato beat reaches us, muffled by the fog. We wait and watch the radar as the unseen intruder passes close across our bows, hoping that our own radar reflector hoisted in the rigging means he sees us on his radar as clearly as we see him.'

It appears that SAIC are picking themselves up having destroyed their 1.5 oz race spinnaker on the first night. They explain, 'A gust of 27 knots hit and it was goodbye to that. Bit of a blow. The crew responded well and the heavier Flanker spinnaker was up in five minutes flat. Fingers crossed we may not need it again.'

There has been a similar incident onboard Me to You, as described by Mate, Corrie MCQUEEN, 'The wind was building and we were pushing the boat as hard as we could but unfortunately we hadn't accounted for the fragile state our well used kite was in and suddenly, without warning, it just popped, and tore, along the length of the foot and one of the side edges!! The entire crew of Me To You sprung into action and the kite came down in one piece (albeit one piece with an enormous gaping hole)!

'Before you could say 'spinnaker pole' the Me to You saloon was converted into a sail loft and damage assessment begun. Of course, as with all little pickles aboard sailing yachts, things are easier said than done: the kite is the size of a tennis court and the saloon is a bit smaller: lots of wind means charging along with the boat heeled over and even balancing yourself down below can be interesting, let alone balancing yourself with a pair of scissors, sticky back sail repair tape and sewing needles.

'Fearless members of each watch took on this onerous task of apprentice sail makers to the skipper John QUIGLEY and together they worked through the rest of yesterday evening and throughout the night to get our spinnaker back together.

'We had the ceremonial rehoisting of our mended kite, which stayed up and everyone's hard work was proved worthwhile!!

'We are now moving again slowly but surely and while we might be playing catch up, the others might yet be surprised to see us creep up on them with our race kite back in one piece!!'

The fleet is now finding more wind - around and about ten knots - as it charges through the Irish Sea. There are still only 14 miles between the front and back yachts so the Round Britain and Ireland Challenge is still anyone's race.

Rachel Anning. Image, The Spirit of Sark team line the rail:© Challenge Business
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