On Thursday (21st June) we approached the start line at Figueira da Foz under sail with almost no wind – sails flapping and perhaps 1.1 knots of boat speed.
So reluctantly we engaged the motor and crossed the line. A few minutes later we found ourselves at the head of the fleet (a new experience for us) and took a picture of our friends spread out behind us. Hang on a minute, we thought, wind or no wind this is a good feeling – to be out there in front - path-finding instead of trailing in the wake.
We liked it so much that we decided then and there that we were damned if we were going to let anyone past us, no matter what. So off we went, watching with delight as the sails behind us started to diminish in the distance. Once we had achieved what we thought was a safe margin, we turned off the engine and let the wind carry us forward at a reasonably respectable 6 knots or so. Then we saw the sails of a pursuer, well ahead of the pack and undoubtedly gaining on us – a Butch Cassidy moment if ever there was one – “Who are those guys?”
As we realised that sails alone were no match for our mechanically-aided pursuers, the shout went up “They shall not pass - No Pasarán!” and we turned on the motor, to make sure.
To cut a long story short we were the first boat to arrive, but of course, as we expected, came nowhere on corrected times.
On Friday (22nd June), at Peniche, things were very different – the breeze was up right from the start and we were able to leave the harbour on the jib (no engine), cross the start line (once we had worked out where it was)under full sail and head off at a cracking pace with the wind almost directly behind us. We had worked out that Murphy could sail fast at an efficient 150 degrees to the wind, as long as we had the preventers rigged and ready, were prepared to concentrate hard and wrestle with the wheel to avoid either gybing or rounding up. So off we went. What fun it was – with expert guidance from Andy, the entire crew helmed magnificently – getting more and more excited as we achieved maximum speeds of something over 12 knots (in 25 knots of wind) and progressively cut our gybing times and angles. It may be a cliché but we really felt we were flying. And this time we really did lead the fleet home and savour the spoils of victory.
Needless to say, Charles and Justin flew home today with a sense of exhilaration and achievement – Rally Portugal (and Andy Leadbetter) has finally taught them what sailing is all about.