Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 3, Onboard Blog 2
After what can only be described as a frustrating few days of wind and current conditions in the Malacca straights we exited the final shipping channel off Singapore. The final stretch of shipping lanes we had to pass were a bit more entertaining as it was upwind which meant some tacking, it was night and we had the enormous glow of Singapore behind us which sometimes made it tricky to decipher between a building or a ship coming straight for you... There were a few close calls during the night passing very close to some of the hundreds of ships in the area, but with a lot of chatter to ship captains on the VHF we made it out unscathed.
We were back out in open water and into the start of a five-day upwind sail to the Vietnamese coast. Our life on a flat boat had now been replaced by a banging, slamming home at a constant angle of 30 degrees. It was now a lot different onboard, shirts and shorts were now wet weather gear, we had to adopt a bit of a spider monkey technique to get around the boat and going to the bathroom becoming an extreme sport but at least we had solid wind now and good speed on the other boats.
Around 12 hours after leaving the coast we were sailing upwind in around 18-20 knts when the J1 sail at the front went bang and flew skyward. Once we had the sail back down on the deck we saw that it was the Cunningham strop, which had chaffed through and broken. This is a rope strop, which connects the sail to a hydraulic ram inside the boat to tension the front of the sail. We immediately hoisted the J2 and then set to work to replace the strop. I went inside and into the very front of the boat to remove the waterproof tubing and connect the new strop to the ram. This was not a pleasant job inside a confined space not much bigger than myself, then with each wave I would get lifted off my feet to the roof then slammed into the side of the hull and normally end up lying in the rapidly growing puddle of water in the bottom of the boat as I had removed the water proof tubing.
There is a pin to hold the strop to the top of the ram then a 3mm grub screw to secure the pin in place, trying to get this in was not an easy task but very soon with some good team work we were back up and running having not lost much as we were not much slower with the smaller sail. As we approached the Vietnamese coast we prepared for a long night of tacking and sail changes, due to the wind it pays to stay close to the shore. There is no easy or short cut way to tack these boats, it is a hard physical job of moving the few hundred kilos of gear and spare’s inside the boat and the even heavier sails on deck to the other side, then a few minutes of winding on the pedestals, changing backstays, lifting daggerboards, etc. after one tack you feel you have had a good workout. After 24 hours of difficult navigation along the shore, non stop tacking, dodging the thousands of fishing boats and fishing buoys along the coast which became a lot trickier at night and sail changes without any sleep everyone was a feeling a little dead...
Heading back offshore everyone had the chance to get some sleep, which lifted moods, removed a lot of stress and enhanced everyone’s conversational skills from grunts to almost full sentences. We are not far from Sanya now but skill a long in a lot of respects, an offshore race is never over until you are tied to the dock! Being the leader makes things a lot more stressful as you are constantly being chased, everyone is pushing hard but I cant imagine how Charles and Pascal are feeling. From the single handed Figaro sailing I have done I now the feeling of stress and not realising you are holding your breath as you open the latest position report, but this is a much bigger scale. I am really impressed by how much knowledge Charles and Pascal have and I hope one day I will have even half the knowledge.
Not long now, we’re pushing hard everyone! See ya in Sanya!