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Selene - Big Blue

14 days into the race and again we are into 25Kts of wind from directly astern surfing 3m swell, making 8+Kts and surfing at up to 12Kts. We seem to be neck and neck with Persephone. The temptation is to push at this late stage, especially as we are so close to Persephone on handicap, but we are trying to stick to our strategy of steady, percentage sailing. That's not to say there is not the occasional rush of bllod to the head as the red mist rises.

We had been sailing under Big Blue all day yesterday in 15-18 Kts, just below optimal wind speed for us and although doing OK, we could have done with another 2 or 3 Kts to really light her up.

We had supper at 5pm boat time (we have put the clocks back another hour, so are now UTC-4). I had tried to take a nap for an hour before coming on watch but was unable to sleep so went up on deck about half an hour early to chat to Lily and Rob who was helming. It had just started to spot a little rain and tghere were acouple of black clouds, but to be fair, not particularly ominous looking. So I went back down and got a jacket and put my wet shorts on. Back on deck the cloud was still there and had been joined by another larger and blacker, but elsewhere the sky was quite clear although dark. The wind was up to 20-22Kts and we debated dousing the kite.

I took the helm to see how she felt before making the finaldsecision. She was surprisingly stable and so as the seastate was reasonably flat we decided to wait a bit. However I wanted to be able to drop the kite quickly if required, so kept Rob in the companionway, ready to fire the kite if necessary and Lily in the cockpit ready with the halyard flaked, and the lazy guy rigged for our accustomed letterbox drop.

Then followed the most exhilarating hour of sailing I think I have ever done. We were, it seemed, sailing on the ragged edge as the wind increased to 25Kts and beyond and Selene was charging along on a cushion of spray at sustained speeds of 12 Kts and above. She was very light on the helm, but every now and then the windward side of the hull dug in and threw us off to leeward threatening a chinese gybe - thank goodness for the preventer - it required all my strength, and almost all the wheel to bring her back. The horizon ahead was black and indistinct and we could see nothing ahead. I was concentrating fully on the swinging numbers on the mast looking at our heading, wind direction and TWA, plus wind speed, hoping that the squall would pass and we could continue with the kite. The kite itself was surprisingly forgiving and tolerated 20-30 degree swings up and down as the number spun and I tried to hold course and keep the boat upright. I think we were going so fast we seemed to be hooked up on the back of the squall and being dragged along by it. All very exciting, but I was convinced it was going to end in tears and eventually called the drop when we hit 27Kts of wind and was pleased with another very controlled letterbox drop, marred only by the fact that I steered her by the lee in the middle of it which was not helpful for the guys trying to douse the kite. Again the preventer proved its worth.

After recovering the kite and clearing the foredeck we were off again with the genoa poled out to windward, reefed to the first mark and full main which was later reefed to 1 slabas the wind continued unabated over 25Kts. There was no real loss of speed, but control was better and were able to steer our course, albeit a little further north than we would have liked, but preferred to get some west in and gybe in day light.

This morning the sun was shining and the wind continued at 25Kts+ with a sizeable swell from the east. We have gybed back onto port and are making good speed towards St Lucia where we hope to make landfall on Tuesday afternoon if we can continue at the current rate. With a larger and stronger crew on a shorter course I would be tempted to put up the Badger, but I do not wish to risk breaking the boat or the crew at this late stage and have curbed my competitive instinct for the sake of getting Selene to St Lucia in one piece. However the Caribbean 600 will be a different story . . . .

Still our battery holds enough charge to keep the instruments running. It is too rough to attempt any repairs for now, so I will catch some more rays and post this blog now.

Selene out.

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