The end is in sight for the Spirit of Canada team as at 12:30 local time yesterday the team of 5 riggers, 1 electrician plus skipper Derek Hatfield and shore crew Patianne Verburgh, began the task of stepping the mast.
It arrived in Ushuaia the day before, and the whole team worked through the night to get everything put together. Once the rigging is finished and the mast stepped, Derek is going to check on the weather scenario, as the forecast is for a strong low to pass over Cape Horn area this weekend. If all goes well, Spirit of Canada should be back on the water racing this Saturday. Thanks to Raymarine, who have supplied all new electronic equipment onboard the boat, you will be able to track Derek's progress on the Positions page each day using Raytech 4.1 navigation software. We will be speaking to Derek just before he leaves, and hope to get some images of the boat setting off as well - fingers crossed!
One team here in Salvador who have been working just as hard over the last few weeks are the Bobst Group - Armor Lux boys, who are today for the first time able to relax a little. Yesterday was their biggest day of work, as shore manager JC Caso explained: "We had one day to put the keel back in the boat, put the boat back in the water, remast and rig her - this normally takes 2 full days to do such a job well. We started at 6am and finished at 6.30pm without even taking a single break all day. Benoit and Christophe were inside the boat whilst she was on the crane, and I was under the boat with Sebastien speaking to the others on VHF and directing the crane operator. Just to put the keel inside the boat took 2 hours, it is a matter of millimetres when it comes to fitting the keel so it was a slow and stressful job in the heat of the day as well. Then we had to fix the bolts in place, repaint everything under the hull and crane the boat back in the water. Everything went very well in the end but we were all very tense as just one tiny problem would have delayed the entire operation and possibly meant re doing everything all over again!" Now back beside Solidaires moored to the CENAB pontoon, Bobst Group - Armor Lux is just in need of a few minor reparations and she will be back to her former glory. In all of this, skipper Bernard Stamm was absent, although he hoped to be back in time to manage the operation - but a strike in the French airport has left him temporarily stranded.
Tomorrow is a big day here at the Centro Nautico da Bahia (CENAB). French skipper Thierry Dubois invites one of Bahia's most famous public artists, Bel Borba, to come and paint the winning design from a children's art competition onto his special spinnaker in aid of Amnesty International. Thierry has visited several schools in Salvador and also talked to the kids from the CENAB's own 'Projet Navegar', which teaches orphaned children sailing in Optimists. Thierry has been talking about children's rights around the world and has asked the kids to draw a representation of children's rights in their country, whether it is the right not to work, the right for good education, the right to have a roof over their heads, or the right just to be happy - the list is endless!
Yesterday saw a visit to the Escola Estadual Mestre Pastinha in the busy Pelhourinho old town district, which is renowned for its many craft shops and art galleries. Despite lacking in funds from the government, the school does have respectable classroom facilities, but it is thanks mainly to the artisans in this area, who have made and donated such equipment so that the children can learn and play. Not only do the tireless teachers school kids from local families, but they go out and encourage the street children to come through their doors too, a thankless task indeed. Thierry spoke to a bunch of primary school children, who were all bright eyed and inquisitive as soon as we entered the building, even trying out an April Fool's joke on the French skipper much to his surprise! During the lesson, Thierry showed the kids a map of the world and his route stopping in different countries including South America. They immediately wanted to know if he had seen killer whales or sharks, how come the boat doesn't turn over, or what does he eat on board… Then came the discussion of other children in these different countries he has visited with the race, what life is like for them, how different are their cultures. The children had a lot of imagination and drew some great pictures to show what they would like to have in life, be it a house, a chance to sail on the ocean, or even a television for their family.
Thierry remarked himself that while this relatively poor school was striving to educate all the local kids despite lacking the funds, round the corner the government were putting substantial funds into a renovation project of the region's first ever medical school - a historical building - in order to teach local people the building trade. One can infer that although there is some 'order and progress' (the national slogan for Brazil) apparent in the social systems here, it is still somewhat selective.
The same afternoon Thierry invited the orphans from the Projet Navegar on board Solidaires, where they were able to climb all over the boat and ask lots of questions to the skipper himself. Tomorrow there will be a race between these kids and the skippers 'around the world' (well the fort off the CENAB) and back - in Optimists. It is sure to be a fierce competition!