It's Saturday morning in Newport, Rhode Island. The sun is shining and a spectacular spring day is on tap.
Out on the water Alan Paris on BTC Velocity is also enjoying a warm spring day and it's a relief from the heat and humidity he has been experiencing since long before arriving in Salvador. "The water is already a lot cooler," he said in a phone call to his wife Becky. "It's a sure sign that we are getting closer to Newport." Indeed the water here in Newport is still a chilly 51 degrees. At the last poll BTC Velocity was still 175 miles from the finish line. Sunday lunch with family and friends is looking increasingly unlikely, but cocktail hour tomorrow evening looks good. It depends, as always, on the wind.
Further to the south Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada is finding the going a bit tough. He has been dealing with strong squalls that develop quickly and catch him by surprise. "The slow slog up the Brazilian coast continues," he wrote. "The wind is quite light and variable with big holes and some squalls around. This morning just before daybreak a squall hit while I was sleeping in the cockpit. Before I could react, the wind shift had tacked the boat and then built to about 25 knots. I had full main and jib up and both sheets were on tight. The boat was pinned over on it's side with the spreaders almost touching the water. It was almost a full minute before I could put the runner on the winch, release the main sheet and bring the boat back upright. By the time everything is sorted and the boat tacked back onto it's original heading, a half an hour goes by."
Derek is also dealing with sweltering hot conditions and a fishing fleet that is keeping him on his toes. "During the day, it is very hot inside the boat so I spend the day on deck, moving around to find the shady spots. There are a lot of small fishing boats around so there is a constant vigil to make sure we don't come together. These little boats spend days out here at a time, sometimes as much as 40 miles offshore, and I'm talking small open boats, 18 feet or so. At night there is the constant twinkling of their fluorescent navigation lights. I have passed by very close to a couple of them during the night, the fishermen must be asleep as there is no activity that I can see. During the day, there is smoke coming out a small chimney from a wood burning stove and you can smell food being prepared. It smells great! Wish I could stop by and have some."
Last night the skippers were hosted by former Around Alone veteran Tony Lush at a fabulous barbecue on the shores of Narragansett Bay. It was an informal affair at the Conanicut Yacht club and one of the last these sailors will have to spend time together. The fleet is disbursing and it will only be next Saturday at the prize giving when they all come together for a final farewell bash. The feeling on the docks is almost surreal. "It's as if we never left," Tim Kent said. "We were just here readying our boats for a sailing trip, and now we are back and have sailed around the world. It's amazing how small the world is when you look at it like that." Tonight skippers and race management will gather to celebrate Billy Black's birthday. Billy has been a fixture of this event almost since the beginning and is well loved and well respected by all the sailors. His stunning images have brought to life the trials and tribulations as well as the exquisite celebrations of this merry band of single-handed sailors. Happy Birthday Billy. For other Newport events coming up this week including Bruce Schwab's Bluegrass concert please look in the Newport section of the Race Route part of the website.