October 20, 2009
The sun set with one of the race boats above us getting caught in the dying rays shooting through the clouds for another photo moment. Moments like these are well appreciated, as we know that 20 boats have already dropped out of the race, presumably due to the hard sailing we’ve had in general. As we’d find out in the morning, more would drop out, perhaps prudently given the forecast for more high winds and upwind sailing during the last leg of the course to the finish in Malta. The 2009 Middle Sea Race will surely be remembered as a real test of boats and sailors.
After sunset, we weathered a couple of nearby squalls, and then the night settled into a pleasant, if slow pace. The skies cleared as we moved into the high pressure area that had killed the wind and we began a series of sail changes to do our best to keep Nix moving. Since the fair winds of the afternoon, up to the time the wind had begun to blow again, we’d changed from the 1.5 oz chute, to the lighter weight .5 oz chute, then the #1 jib, put up the #2 jib for the squalls, then back to the #1 jib, then the lightest weight Wind Seeker jib and finally back to #1. All between 1500 hours and 2000 hours. That’s more than one sail change per hour.
Sleeping below was challenging for a different reason tonight. The variable winds required constant attention to sail trim, where the sheets are eased and then brought back in, over and over again. When eased, the highly loaded jib sheet comes off the winch with loud popping sounds, like the short staccato blasts of a machine gun, which could literally be felt all around Nix. At one point, the watch on deck had British accents, which could be heard below as they discussed the trim and heading of Nix. The combination of the two had AJ dreaming of the Red Coats attacking in foul weather gear.
After the wind came up, the sailing was pleasant the rest of the night and into the early morning. The shooting stars were plentiful, but we were too focused on steering and trimming to truly appreciate them. All in all, a good nights sail.
As daylight broke with freshening breeze, a look at the #1 jib put everyone into action. The trailing edge was starting to bulge out and split as the seam was beginning to fail. The #2 was quickly set and the #1 taken down for repairs. The #1 was laid out on the deck and we used most of the remaining sail repair materials to patch it up. With baited breath, we made the sail change to put it back up. Unfortunately, just minutes later it began to split again and we had to immediately go back to the #2. This was not good as there wasn’t enough wind yet and we were stuck going more slowly than we should be.
But you make the best of what you have to work with, and there’s no deynying we’ve all gotten the best out of Nix that we could. We’re still happy with our progress and as the wind filled in, we became happy with the #2 as well.