A close run sprint

What a day it’s been. We entered the ocean sprint at about five thirty this morning. Looking through the open port opposite from my bunk,  I could see a beautiful sunrise, and the sails of GB against it. We also had DLL really close behind us, and Switzerland and Derry were nearby, though not visible once the sun was up.
The sprint started with light winds, we were flying the windseeker. But as the wind increased, we switched to the big kite, the A1. So the sprint began as a drag race – we were neck and neck with GB all morning, both of us pulling away from DLL.
As we started our afternoon watch, though, things started to change. The wind began to head us, and we peeled to the A3 (the heavy weight kite). The evolution went flawlessly, much to our relief. But dark clouds loomed ahead in a long line – too big to be called a squall, I think. more like a weather front. It became clear that we were going to get rain, and we didn’t know how much wind, but we began preparing to douse the kite and go back to white sails. People were scurrying below to get jackets, too, as the sky darkened ominously.
Because of the way the front curved around, GB hit it first – we saw them do a huge bear way, and then their kite was streaming like a flag as they started to douse it. We hoped that we’d somehow sneak through the squall line untouched – but then we didn’t know how extensive the system was. Just as we prepared to raise the staysail , the first gust hit, and we too had to hastily douse the kite. ‘All hands’ was called to get the yankee and staysail up as the driving rain began. It was cold too – but still better than woolling the kite downstairs, for some – Ryan – for the second time in an hour.
It was very rainy and wild for a while, and we lost sight of DLL and GB completely. After an hour or two – I lost track of time –  the mothers made us all hot chocolate: what a change from the tropical temperatures we were enjoying just this morning! Eventually, we cam through the rain into lighter skies, and the wind moderated and went back towards it’s original direction, We raised the A2 and dropped the yankee – just as we finished GB emerged from the clouds still abeam and far downwind, and now flying their A2 as well.
By now we’d had an updated schedule, and knew that the sprint was going well for us and for GB. We SO didn’t want to let them win it, as the 2 points would almost wipe out the 3 we’d gained from the Scoring Gate. We decided that both watches would stay up until the sprint was done, we had four people grinding, and everyone without a job sat on the rail as heavily as possible. It still looked neck and neck for a long time, then GB gybed and were sailing directly towards us. Well that was all we needed – we waited for them to come down to us, and then gybed in front of them. Now we were between them and the end of the sprint, with 2 miles to go. All we had to do was hold them off. and that’s what we did. We trimmed for all we were worth, and there was jubilation when we ended the sprint just after 5pm. Whew! We might not win the 2 points ourselves, but as we started the day .5 of a mile behind GB, and ended it one and a half ahead, we know THEY won’t get them.  It is fun to have such a close rivalry at this stage of the race.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, about forty five minutes later,, the active spinnaker sheet snapped with a bang. We quickly got the sail under control, Sean trimming  using the lazy sheet, and set up for a letter-box drop. That was only a temporary solution, and Eric gave the order to drop the kite. But Nick and Morgan had another idea – and in the end we raised Morgan on a halyard, first up the shrouds, and then precariously out along the now active spinnaker sheet, to tie a new sheet on. It worked! But it certainly wasn’t easy. Applause all around. GB gained some as we were forced to sail conservatively while this went on, but we are still neck and neck. With our great rivals a stone’s throw away, and another big weather system expected later, it looks like it will be an exciting night here for Team HLFiftyYOPS.

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