Leg One AZAB 2015

Day 1.

After a good start we rounded the manacles rocks and hardened up onto the wind and tried to hold the windward position out into the channel and pass The Lizard. We stayed hard on the wind as it shifted, into the middle of the night as it is our intention to put as much west and north to our course as possible to avoid the big winds which are predicted, in the hope that we will be able to sail through it with our spinnaker on the edge of the big winds. Even though it will be further, we hope it will be faster. As the wind slowly changed direction at 0500 this morning we hoisted the code zero, until the wind went further behind and we are now sailing with the asymmetric poled out. We feel that we are still in good company in visual contact with Xanadu (an X50) and Ninjod, a Sunfst 3600. The sun is out, a long rolling swell, blue sea and all is well with our world.

Day 2.

Gibed too early to avoid the stronger winds but never the less we are just skirting around the worst of them. We are surfing off the big rolling waves, top surf today 11.8 knots! The whole hull vibrates every time we surf over 9 knots, indicating that this is Ruffians weather as she purrs along. It is very noisy as we are rolling from side to side and everything is moving about. We covered 167 nm in the last 24 hours. All in all, having a nice time, wish you were here!!

Day 3.

After successfully receiving the latest grib file, which confirmed that our plans to skirt around the area of strong winds and big seas were correct. Nevertheless we still find ourselves sailing as downwind as we dare, in 30 knots, along with the big seas associated with them, rolling from side to side, once again with all the contents of our lockers sliding from side to side as well. Last night in desperation we stuck the last reef in, which fortunately went easier than expected, but we still found ourselves surfing at 11 plus knots, the biggest being 13.9!

Mid afternoon, yesterday we found water sloshing around on the cabin sole, upon investigation we thought it was coming through the stern tube which caused a lot of worry. We thought we had got it under control, but at 0200 hrs we had a small knock down, resulting in a massive amount of water coming up from under the cabin sole. A lengthy investigation showed that fortunately it was not the stern tube but ingress from an outside locker from all the water we have taken over the boat in the rough seas.

 As we close the rumb line Embla 3 (Van de Stadt 40) appeared again, and Far Fetched (Dufour 40) both class 2 boats, and then Scherzo (Bowman 42) in Class 3 and to our surprise once again Xanadu (X 50) class 1 boat. We have had another 167 mile 24 hour run. We have shaken a reef out and unrolled a bit of genny this morning. We are both happy, well fed and in good form, if a little weary after the dramas of last night and are looking forward to the lighter winds and flatter seas the grib files promise, when it will be a case of sail choice and sailing skills rather than just hanging on for dear life!!

Day 4.

Yet another wild night, with three reefs in the main, big seas and on the edge of control but the wind is in such a constant direction it makes life a little easier.

We spoke to Neil of Vela Fresca, a single hander, who had suffered a little bit of a knockdown on Tuesday night, losing his electronics, spray hood and dan buoys off the stern of the boat, but he is ok and trucking on. We also spoke to Xanadu the X50 who amazingly we are managing to keep pace with. At 0800 we shook out the third and at 1500 we shook out all the reefs, but it was short lived as the wind soon picked up again so it was reef in and out as the situation demanded until 0900 this morning (Thursday) when we hoisted the kite. The wind and weather were calming down as predicted and no sooner than the spinnaker was set than a pod of dolphins joined us and swam with us for about an hour, leaping out of the water and riding the bow wave. We have now covered over 800 hundred miles and once again we have maintained our 167 mile run in a 24 hour period. With around 360 miles to go until we hit the island (well not literally) where we have to make the decision whether to go North or South of the island to get to Punta Delgada.

Day 5… Today’s light hearted blog, by Emma

Well, the last 24 hours have been rather eventful. All was going normally until about 1530 yesterday when Assy, the asymmetric, who had been doing all the hard work, got rather tired and started cracking his cloth like a gunshot going off and throwing poor Ruff all over the place which was rather unnerving, indicating it was just too downwind for him and he wanted to come down. Big Pink was very excited as it was his turn to come out of the forepeak and he hadn’t been out since the Harwich – Scheveningen race in May – so as both kites were getting what they wanted – a spinnaker peal was executed faultlessly (Pete and I allowed ourselves a small round of applause.) and Big Pink took over, however by 0130 on Friday morning the wind had was very gusty and really was getting too much for Big Pink – he was having a fab time though and didn’t want to come down, so got the halyard to tie itself in a knot so he had to stay up. After a big fight on the very dark night with only a little light from the torch and him nearly ripping himself, he was retrieved and put back in his bag with a small telling off.

We then spent the next 4 hours sailing under main alone, then goose winging, when, by 0500 we heard Big Pink clamouring to be out again, promising to behave. We let him out and he went up like an angel and is behaving beautifully – the only hiccup so far was when Pete leant on the remote control for the auto pilot by mistake and put us into an auto tack – but Big Pink – being such a gentle soul and a little ashamed for not coming down when told last night, did all he could not to wrap himself around the forestay while we got Ruffian back under control.

 Pete’s words now… The code zero is now up and earning his keep for the purpose for which he was intended as an insurance policy for the Azores High! Despite the lighter airs with combinations of every sail we have on the boat we still managed to achieve 156 miles in the last 24 hours.

Day 6.

Hopefully if the wind holds we have spent our last full night at sea as we close on the finishing line in Porto Delgada, after looking at the latest grib files we had received, we made the decision to pass the island to the North and West. We spent last night changing from Code Zero to Genoa as conditions demanded. All went well until the early hours of this morning when we needed to run the engine to charge the batteries when half way through the charging period the engine failed. A vale of doom and despondency once again fell over us as we thought we would have to spend the rest of the race hand steering the rest of the way. An investigation showed that that at the angle of heal we were and the amount of fuel in the tank, it had simply taken a gulp of air into the pipe which was soon fixed with the addition of the spare 25 litres of fuel. Once again if the wind holds we should arrive at the finishing line around midnight.

Something which we always find so amazing is that after not seeing very many other competitors after the first 12 hours, boats are appearing from all directions as we get closer to the island. So far we have covered 1063 miles with approximately another 83 to go, and have maintained an average of 6.9 knots for the whole time. We are now both looking forward to our first shower in a week, clean clothes and a very large gin & tonic!! Grey and a bit rainy today, but warm, and all is well.

Day 7.

Wishful thinking! Last night at sea! The wind had now eased and we are sailing in calmer seas with much less wind, it’s even quite pleasant! But there is still work to do. We are excited about the prospect of finishing today and relax and concentrate on the job in hand, as we close in on the Island a school of whales, five or maybe even six swam by, only a couple of boat lengths away, a little unnerving, Emma amazed with their beauty and ease of pace through the water whilst I was more concerned with bearing away in case big brother was following up as rear guard! 

Once again it was spinnaker – code zero, and we worked hard to the NW corner of Sao Miguel, the wind was slowly dying, just one or two knots now and we are barely managing a single knot of boat speed.  A quick glance at the chart ruled out anchoring as we are still in over six hundred meters.  Panic turned to relief as the wind slowly started to build and we rounded the corner before the wind died completely.  How ironic that after all the wind we have had we are now without any wind at all.  We drifted down the south coast of the island towards Porto Delgada with just a little tide induced wind, knowing that the difficult part was still to come, that being that we would have to sail in completely the opposite direction, against the tide to cross the finish line. 

We rounded the end of the pier wall towards the finish line and there, God only knows why, were small wisps of wind on the water, glistening in the moonlight, after a couple of attempts we crossed the finish line to a massive round of applause from the rib, belonging to the host club, not only to finish us but also guide us to our berth. 

These guys deserve a special thank you, as they are there to greet ever yacht that finishes the race at whatever time of day or night.

We were second on the water in our class but fifth on corrected time, which we feel a little disappointed with and twenty first overall, which we suppose is not really too bad. Before the start of the race we knew it would be a fast, tough race and so it turned out, with the winner posting the fastest ever time but it is a two legged race and we are in good shape for the return leg, with very little damage, as we met up with other crews we find there has been one broken mast, two broken booms, three goose necks parted company where they were attached to the mast, sails shredded, spreader terminals broken, countless autopilots needing repair and so the list goes on and all we have is broken wind hawk!

The race is not over yet and it is still all to play for!

 

Azorean hospitality

The benefit of a fast passage is the extra time you get to spend in your destination, meeting old friends and making new ones, sight seeing and in general just relaxing. This year was no exception, there were quite a few new comers to off shore racing and they were welcomed into the growing family of friends, sharing experiences, knowledge and giving help where it was needed, oh yes and having a few drinks together !

After a good tidy up, both us and Ruffian, a weeks laundry sorted, a good rest it was time to enjoy the delights and beauty of the Azorean country side.

So along with John and Barry from Swift we arranged a trip with a private taxi who first of all took us to a pineapple plantation, one of the Islands major exports, where after the guided tour the tone for the day was set with a tasting session of a potent pineapple liquor!

 

 

Next up a trip around the western end of the Island, somewhere we had not been before and after winding our way up ever increasing inclines, often going more and more ’off road’ we were treated to some of the most spectacular and breath taking views we had ever seen, the blue lagoon, the green lakes all viewed from the best vantage points, some of which incurred climbing up tracks more suitable for mountain goats, many thanks to our taxi driver!

 

This was followed by a long meander back to Porto Delgarda, through small villages, where the custom is for each in turn to hold a carnival for the gifts that God had provided.

After the odd refreshment stop we arrived back to the white marbled streets, which surround the marina.

We made more new friends and spent time drinking coffee and beer, chatting on each other’s boats before we all met up at the local cafes and bars for the evening meal.

A pontoon party was arranged, held to say thank you to all the Azoreans who had helped make the stay so enjoyable, the local chandlers, marina staff, the guys that greeted every single competitor in the ribs and led us safely to a berth and not least the host yacht Club who had taken the finishing times of every yacht, regardless of the time, day or night.

Later in the week the Club hosted a cocktail party to greet everyone officially and on another night a superb banquet / prize giving evening was held.

But time marches on and soon it was time for the final checks before the restart. We both felt confident we had no problems but to our horror the rigging check showed that the lower shroud wire had two or three wires broken at the terminal. A quick trip to the local rigger was successful and in the afternoon we had a new shroud back in place.

 Weather forecasts were down loaded outside the local bars and studied by each crew, tactics and strategies were decided, not long now, the buzz of the re-start could be felt in the air, fair wells and good wishes were exchanged from every quarter and once again it was time to leave the safety of the marina for a new adventure on the open ocean

Leg Two AZAB 2015

Return leg, restart and Day 1

After all the fantastic hospitality that the Azoreans had given us their final act was to lay on a warship, which together with a blobber would form the start line. The gun went and even though there is probably still another 10 days of racing still to do, no quarter was asked and none given to be first over. A buoy had been laid one mile to the east of the start line after which you could make a decision whether you departed east or west of the island. We can’t remember anyone going east. We rounded in 2nd place just behind the beautiful Holman Yawl Saboo, we then headed west on starboard tack, meeting the rest of the fleet on port tack coming towards us, what joy!

We led the fleet for most of the leg along the south coast of the island and were only overtaken by Sud Du Croix, a class 40. Yes we know he did start 15 minutes after us, but heck, he does hold the record for the fastest leg to the Azores in the 40 years the race has been running!

 

Joy turned to dismay when we spent the rest of the night with slating sails, trying to coax a tenth of a knot in the right direction! In the 9 hour period that followed we covered only seven nautical miles. With the rest of the fleet bringing the wind with them until they fell into the same wind hole. At 0220hrs we put the code zero up in 4 knots of breeze and started to make progress, at daybreak we peeled to Big Pink (our biggest spinnaker) which we carried for only a couple of hours when we found ourselves surfing uncontrollably and decided discretion would be the better part of valour and changed it for the smaller asymmetric, poled out, with which we are still hitting the occasional 9 and 10 knot burst. This morning we have had a brief word with Kas on Zest, and Neil on Vela Fresca, who are both single handers, and they both sounded on good form. In total our 24 hour run was 89 nautical miles, (rather less than the distances we logged on the way out!) and we now have 1095 nm to go to our waypoint off the Lizard.

Day 2 of the return leg.

Choosing to take the route we have may not turn out to be the greatest of ideas, but it is one we have committed to and now must stay with it. We crossed tacked behind Vela Fresca, Tamarisk, Zest, Yenda and Juliet, all on the other gibe heading north so now we have only Sabboo for company. We also spotted Swift on the AIs, also travelling north, but as our course is taking us parallel to the rumb line we have stayed with it, still surfing off waves at great speed, often recording maximum speeds of 10 and 11 knots!

It was a beautiful sunny and hot day, and although we both wore hats and sunscreen, by 1900 Emma had an intense migraine type headache and felt rather nauseous, which we put down to too much sun, and was confined to shivering under a blanket until 2100 hours when after a lot of banging and clattering of the spinnaker gear which we really need to protect, the decision was made to drop the kite, which did not help Emma’s headache at all!! We were still hurtling, headlong into a pitch black night, basically just hanging on. Emma slowly started to recover which then gave Pete chance to catch up on his sleep, who as well as keeping a good watch he played 3 games of scrabble against to computer to keep himself awake, by the expletives I think he and the computer may have learnt a few new words!!

Our daily 24 hour run was 167.7 nm, much better than yesterdays. The wind and seas are still keeping us below the rumb line, so our next job is to down load a new grib file to see what the weather holds.

Day 3 of the return leg.

We had a very pleasant afternoon, although in a dying wind, but keeping our speed up to a reasonable level with a variety of sail changes. A lovely evening turned into a very long night, with no wind and once again slating sails, making about 1 knot through the water in a number of different directions as what little wind there was changed direction.

The irritation of no wind was made worse by seeing Swift and Yenda who were about 10 miles further north than us, skirt around the wind hole and disappear of the AIS screen, whilst we wallowed about. We did two involuntary penalty turns just in case we were too close to Vela Fresca who was two miles away, he did likewise!!

We reefed the main to stop it slating, which helped a little. At 0540 we furled the zero and put the main back up, and unfurled the genoa, turned harder onto the wind to try and make a half decent course. As I type this it is 0711, the sun has come up, we are ghosting along, a big long lovely Atlantic swell, which occasionally knocks all the wind out of the sails (not that lovely), Pete sleeps, a well earned off watch as he has been fretting all night trying to keep the boat going. It is totally peaceful, just a chuckle of water along the hull, and the whir of the auto pilot. I sit drinking my tea, looking at endless sea and sky, and marvel at this wonderful planet we inhabit, feeling very privileged to be here, at the same time wondering why us humans seem to be hell bent on destroying it.

It is now 1130, we are still ghosting along, now under the zero at 3.1 knots. It is blisteringly hot so we have taken to opportunity to rinse a few things through, Ruff resembles a floating Widow Twankies Laundry, with pants fluttering gently in the breeze from the guard rails, let’s hope the next passing tanker doesn’t think we’re taking in washing!!!

We have achieved a 24 hr run of 108 nm most of which was done before midnight.

Day 4 of the return leg.

 Yesterday afternoon and evening were very stressful, where the best speed we achieved was around 4 knots but for the biggest part of the day was around 2 knots, and we progressed at the best angle that we could using the code zero, we were really in spinnaker territory but with not enough pressure and rolling seas (2 metre gentle swell) flying it would without doubt ended in a wrap. At 2300 hours, with the wind up to about 7 knots we poled out the genoa with the boat illuminated by moonlight. Tamarind, Tamarisk, Saboo and Vela Fresca all came up on the AIS screen, which lifted our spirits. A chat with Neil off Vela Fresca told us how he had spent the last eight hours sewing his spinnaker back together. We continued side by side with Tamarind until we gibed to stay parallel to the rumb line as this is where we think the better wind will be for the next couple of days.

We sailed all night with the poled out genoa making exactly the course we wanted to, with Ruffian behaving impeccably. Considering half the day was spent with slating sails we shouldn’t be too disappointed that our daily run is 98.4 nm.

Day 5 of the return leg

From noon yesterday we made steady progress until around 0400 this morning, the fog came down and the wind died. Since then it has been painfully slow, with sails once again slating, make us wince at each crack and shake of the rig as the following seas overtake us. We were both feeling quite board and out of sorts, convinced we have gone the wrong way and are at the back of the fleet, and it could easily turn into a two week passage, therefore we have already started looking at our water and food consumption.

And then it happened ….. at 1045 …. Emma heard a whale spouting! We shot outside into the cockpit to see a whale, 60 foot plus following the boat. Slowly rising and falling and then turning over to show us its huge white underside. Emma yells I remember reading they mate belly to belly!!!! In panic Pete recalls form somewhere from the distant past that if you put the engine on there will be no mistake and he will realise we are a boat, thank God for a noisy Volvo engine! We took the opportunity to charge the batteries and fridge, which is playing up and can only be turned on when the engine is charging,. The whale followed us for about 3/4 of an hour and considering the quality of the camera, we managed to get some good video footage. Although he was very beautiful, we were quite relieved when he got bored and went on his way! Can be viewed in Ruffian’s video page.

Our daily run is 125 miles, we are not even half way yet! According to the grib files the wind will increase where we are, so hopefully we will be back in time for the Christmas!

Day 6 of the return leg. Just another day in the office.

 After the thrill of yesterday and the spectacular sighting of the whale and being stalked by it, we asked ourselves what could top that! Everything was normal until our routine engine check when we noticed water leaking from the lift pump to engine block rubber heater hose. A quick search of the pipe store revealed a perfect replacement which was quickly achieved, no fuss, no mess, no drips, not sinking anymore!

Early this morning Swift came up on the computer screen about 9 miles ahead, which gave us a little encouragement to pay more attention to the sail trim and start to try and hunt him down. Later during the morning Emma spotted a fish on the side deck, we think it was a garfish it was only about nine or ten inches long, unfortunately it was dead, and as we are right out of chips, back it went to provide lunch for some other bigger fish.

A disappointed days run of 148 nm, we thought we would have done better than that but were encouraged to see that we only have 457 miles to go to our waypoint off the Lizard.. The sun is shining, the sea is blue if a little bouncy and it is shorts and tee shirts again. We have still plenty of food as we found a hidden supply of freeze dried food (only slightly out of date but lacking variety!

 

Day 7 of the return leg.

After having the poled out genoa up since Friday night, the grib files showed we were in for a change, and sure enough, true to form, at 0600 this morning we had the code zero back up, by 0700 we had peeled to the asymmetric, 0800 onto the pole, and finally at 1100 we put Big Pink up. So after a lazy two days we have had quite a busy morning! We have both taken the opportunity to have a mini bath, wash a few clothes out and once again they are fluttering on the guard rails drying.

We keep counting down the miles, and after a daily run of 161 nm we now have 283 to go to the waypoint off the Lizard. At this moment in time we are gliding along on a gentle Atlantic swell at 5.3 knots in 8 knots of true wind. Last night Surprise, a Sweeden 390 yacht, caught us up, we have had a nice couple of chats and we are now side by side. Pete is making tomato sandwiches for lunch, which look very delicious.

Day 8 of the return leg.

Code zero again earns his keep! For the past 24 hours we have mainly flown zero the hero and in very light winds we sit and watch the instruments in utter amazement at the speeds we are achieving in such light aired conditions and for a change flat seas, with only the accompanying dolphins, who stayed with us all night, breaking the surface making their own waves as they danced in the bow waves.

Everything was going well, too well in fact when Emma did her daily bilge check we found copious amounts of oil in the engine drip tray! Investigation showed it was coming from the oil pressure sensor. We made a repair with epoxy, our first attempt to mend it only partially worked with still a small leak, so we waited till day break and stripped it all down again to add more epoxy to the repair. Result! We now only have a small leek which is easy to control.

The grib files we downloaded yesterday proved to be totally inaccurate as by now the wind which was on the beam should have veered and gone further aft, instead it has backed and now we are quite hard on the wind for the first time since the start of the race, nearly 2000 miles ago!!!

Whilst our daily run is only 120 nm we are confident to say that without the code zero it would have been one hell of a lot less! Once again we are counting down the miles and hopefully, one more night at sea, and if conditions hold we should be in late Thursday night or early Friday morning at worst (fingers crossed).

Day 9 of the return leg.

This is our ninth day at sea, we had been hoping for an eight day passage, but it has taken us eleven days before so we still have two days in hand before we officially do our slowest time!

We made good progress for the rest of yesterday afternoon until about midnight the wind started dying, the early hours saw us desperately trying to keep the boat moving and at one time or another we flew every sail on the boat. We are now ghosting along in roughly the direction we need to go to the finish. Believe it or not after some of the speeds we have been getting, we are actually glad to be doing 2.5 knots through the water, but progress is not assisted by knocking the tide. We know quite a few boats are piled up around here waiting for the wind to build, but our hopes of last night being our last night at sea have faded into the distant past.

 For the fifth consecutive day we will repeat our staple diet of rice, tinned veg and meat followed by an imaginary ice cream, accompanied by an imaginary glass of wine! Our daily run today has been 109 nm, which considering our speeds since midnight is not too awful. One of our main worries now is that there is an awful lot of seaweed floating around,( probably left over from the bad weather we had coming out) which if we get it round the keel or rudder will definitely grind us to a halt in these light winds!

Hopefully tomorrow the wind will have picked up enough for us to be in Falmouth, as we only have about 51 miles to go, but if it doesn’t this will probably be our last blog from the boat as the sat phone airtime runs out tonight.

Day 10 of the return leg.

Definitely our last night at sea!! Once again it was hard work, making slow progress, again, sail change after sail change to maintain progress in the general direction we wanted to go, until early in the morning we found ourselves closing on the English coast. Land ho! Emma called and for the first time since the start we saw more than two or three yachts appear on the AIS, as we neared the Lizard more and more came into view and now it was possible we would make the finish before midnight, a quick check on the tides confirmed this. In addition we reckon if we can carry the code zero, it will be very advantageous to us. We rounded the Lizard and eased the sheets, time for, what we hope will be our last sail change and we hoisted big pink for the final few miles and crossed the finish line in falling wind and tide, to be welcomed by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Clubs rib.

Job done!

We finished third on the water behind Dreamcatcher and Olbia, who had already tied up and gone to the Chain Locker pub. We tidied Ruffian up and were ready for a good night’s sleep when Alain, our new friend from Beljuim shouted over “well sailed” quite naturally after a compliment like that he was invited over for a celebration drink! Very shortly after that, Christian (French) from Olbia and Eric (Dutch) and James from Dreamcatcher joined us, it was like the league of nations, we laughed, exchanged stories and drank into the early hours.

These are the very special times spent with friends that races like this bring and we feel privileged to be part of them. Once again we have enjoyed the race and the camaraderie that accompanies it. We finished 22nd out of the original 70 entrants so not too bad we also finished without further damage and so consider ourselves very lucky.

 

 

 

 

Our daily run is 125 miles, we are not even half way yet! According to the grib files the wind will increase where we are, so hopefully we will be back in time for the Christmas!

Day 6 of the return leg. Just another day in the office.

 After the thrill of yesterday and the spectacular sighting of the whale and being stalked by it, we asked ourselves what could top that! Everything was normal until our routine engine check when we noticed water leaking from the lift pump to engine block rubber heater hose. A quick search of the pipe store revealed a perfect replacement which was quickly achieved, no fuss, no mess, no drips, not sinking anymore!

Early this morning Swift came up on the computer screen about 9 miles ahead, which gave us a little encouragement to pay more attention to the sail trim and start to try and hunt him down. Later during the morning Emma spotted a fish on the side deck, we think it was a garfish it was only about nine or ten inches long, unfortunately it was dead, and as we are right out of chips, back it went to provide lunch for some other bigger fish.

A disappointed days run of 148 nm, we thought we would have done better than that but were encouraged to see that we only have 457 miles to go to our waypoint off the Lizard.. The sun is shining, the sea is blue if a little bouncy and it is shorts and tee shirts again. We have still plenty of food as we found a hidden supply of freeze dried food (only slightly out of date but lacking variety!

 

Day 7 of the return leg.

After having the poled out genoa up since Friday night, the grib files showed we were in for a change, and sure enough, true to form, at 0600 this morning we had the code zero back up, by 0700 we had peeled to the asymmetric, 0800 onto the pole, and finally at 1100 we put Big Pink up. So after a lazy two days we have had quite a busy morning! We have both taken the opportunity to have a mini bath, wash a few clothes out and once again they are fluttering on the guard rails drying.

We keep counting down the miles, and after a daily run of 161 nm we now have 283 to go to the waypoint off the Lizard. At this moment in time we are gliding along on a gentle Atlantic swell at 5.3 knots in 8 knots of true wind. Last night Surprise, a Sweeden 390 yacht, caught us up, we have had a nice couple of chats and we are now side by side. Pete is making tomato sandwiches for lunch, which look very delicious.

Day 8 of the return leg.

Code zero again earns his keep! For the past 24 hours we have mainly flown zero the hero and in very light winds we sit and watch the instruments in utter amazement at the speeds we are achieving in such light aired conditions and for a change flat seas, with only the accompanying dolphins, who stayed with us all night, breaking the surface making their own waves as they danced in the bow waves.

Everything was going well, too well in fact when Emma did her daily bilge check we found copious amounts of oil in the engine drip tray! Investigation showed it was coming from the oil pressure sensor. We made a repair with epoxy, our first attempt to mend it only partially worked with still a small leak, so we waited till day break and stripped it all down again to add more epoxy to the repair. Result! We now only have a small leek which is easy to control.

The grib files we downloaded yesterday proved to be totally inaccurate as by now the wind which was on the beam should have veered and gone further aft, instead it has backed and now we are quite hard on the wind for the first time since the start of the race, nearly 2000 miles ago!!!

Whilst our daily run is only 120 nm we are confident to say that without the code zero it would have been one hell of a lot less! Once again we are counting down the miles and hopefully, one more night at sea, and if conditions hold we should be in late Thursday night or early Friday morning at worst (fingers crossed).

Day 9 of the return leg.

This is our ninth day at sea, we had been hoping for an eight day passage, but it has taken us eleven days before so we still have two days in hand before we officially do our slowest time!

We made good progress for the rest of yesterday afternoon until about midnight the wind started dying, the early hours saw us desperately trying to keep the boat moving and at one time or another we flew every sail on the boat. We are now ghosting along in roughly the direction we need to go to the finish. Believe it or not after some of the speeds we have been getting, we are actually glad to be doing 2.5 knots through the water, but progress is not assisted by knocking the tide. We know quite a few boats are piled up around here waiting for the wind to build, but our hopes of last night being our last night at sea have faded into the distant past.

 For the fifth consecutive day we will repeat our staple diet of rice, tinned veg and meat followed by an imaginary ice cream, accompanied by an imaginary glass of wine! Our daily run today has been 109 nm, which considering our speeds since midnight is not too awful. One of our main worries now is that there is an awful lot of seaweed floating around,( probably left over from the bad weather we had coming out) which if we get it round the keel or rudder will definitely grind us to a halt in these light winds!

Hopefully tomorrow the wind will have picked up enough for us to be in Falmouth, as we only have about 51 miles to go, but if it doesn’t this will probably be our last blog from the boat as the sat phone airtime runs out tonight.

Day 10 of the return leg.

Definitely our last night at sea!! Once again it was hard work, making slow progress, again, sail change after sail change to maintain progress in the general direction we wanted to go, until early in the morning we found ourselves closing on the English coast. Land ho! Emma called and for the first time since the start we saw more than two or three yachts appear on the AIS, as we neared the Lizard more and more came into view and now it was possible we would make the finish before midnight, a quick check on the tides confirmed this. In addition we reckon if we can carry the code zero, it will be very advantageous to us. We rounded the Lizard and eased the sheets, time for, what we hope will be our last sail change and we hoisted big pink for the final few miles and crossed the finish line in falling wind and tide, to be welcomed by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Clubs rib.

Job done!

We finished third on the water behind Dreamcatcher and Olbia, who had already tied up and gone to the Chain Locker pub. We tidied Ruffian up and were ready for a good night’s sleep when Alain, our new friend from Beljuim shouted over “well sailed” quite naturally after a compliment like that he was invited over for a celebration drink! Very shortly after that, Christian (French) from Olbia and Eric (Dutch) and James from Dreamcatcher joined us, it was like the league of nations, we laughed, exchanged stories and drank into the early hours.

These are the very special times spent with friends that races like this bring and we feel privileged to be part of them. Once again we have enjoyed the race and the camaraderie that accompanies it. We finished 22nd out of the original 70 entrants so not too bad we also finished without further damage and so consider ourselves very lucky.