Header image: Henri Lloyd in St Katharine Docks before the race start

The long grey watch

Last night’s first watch, 8pm to midnight, was a bit longer than expected. The watch started innocuously enough, with some stars, minimal cloud cover but no moon. It soon clouded over though. It meant that everything was a shade of grey.

We were trying to trim the spinnaker by distinguishing its light grey colour from the darker grey of the staysail. That bit wasn’t too hard. We were also trying to distinguish its other edge from the clouds. These were all sorts of shades of grey, some the same shade as the spinnaker.

Despite the cloud cover it was much colder than it had been during the day, and we were all looking forward to the end of the watch, when we could go below, warm up and go to bed. It was not to be.

Eric announced that at watch changeover we would be gybing. This is just changing course when going downwind; a bit like tacking when sailing upwind but with a few more steps. During the gybe we noticed some holes in the sail which meant it had to be taken down and repaired. Into the bargain, at the same time we lost a sheet overboard and it is now hooked round something beneath the boat.

So instead of a straightforward gybe, we had a gybe that went wrong, taking down a sail, hoisting a new one, plus time spent attempting to retrieve the line from overboard.

I don’t know what time it was when we came below, but it was well past midnight!

Our speed has been affected by using a smaller sail until the repair was made, and by dragging the line that Eric is hoping can be freed when the winds get lighter. In turn we have lost ground to the rest of the fleet. We have about twenty miles to make up before the scoring gate, which is not very likely.

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