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Shepherd Moon - Shepherding the fleet

Having left the Canaries on the 5th November, we arrived in Cape Verde on the 12th. Somehow, without trying, we managed to come second in our division. As with the Duckworth Lewis method in cricket, the handicapping system in sailing sometimes throws up strange results, and rain didn't even stop play.

We have found the perfect spot to display our second prize plaque but there isn't really room to add a second one, which is why we have purposely positioned ourselves at the back of the fleet! Our start could not have been worse. Whilst all the other boats jostled for position on the line, we were still secure in our berth. In fact we were still tied up as the starting gun fired. We did eventually slip our lines and hoisted our newly repaired gennaker, giving it a little wash in the sea in the process, and made away across the start as the committee boat was motoring back to harbour.

Under gennaker, we started to close the gap with the others and were about to overtake the second-from-last boat when we ran out of sea room. We needed to either change sails or try and attempt a land crossing. We decided the former course of action was arguably the better long term strategy and so we wrestled down the gennaker, and hoisted the Blue Water Runner. As a crew we perhaps lack the finesse of the America's Cup boats and so we lost much of the ground we had made up, and then the wind died completely. With our sails drooping like wet washing, we were effectively parked. On the plus side, it did give me an opportunity to don my Speedos (much to the embarrassment of the crew) and mend the bracket of our Watt & Sea generator.

It was depressing to see all the other boats gradually disappear from our screen, leaving us friendless and windless. Although, having said that, as dusk fell we were visited by a pod of dolphins, but they decided we couldn't possibly be a boat because we weren't moving and so they left us to wallow on our own. Not that we were bored. In the process of all this inactivity the in-mast furling for the main broke, with the mainsail half way out. We were faced with the difficult decision of continuing, or heading back to Cape Verde with its very limited repair services. We decided that we would have a better chance of getting it sorted in the Caribbean. A judiciously placed bolt has provided a temporary fix and so have at least managed to get the main away. The bolt is now well and truly wedged in place and so if we have to use the main, I think we probably could, but we'll try and sail with our assortment of headsails as much as we can. (as a word or reassurance to those less nautically minded, the mainsail is not necessarily the "main" sail; the genoa, gennaker and Blue Water Runner get quite upset at this misnomer).

At 11:30 last night we finally decided to give in and turn on the engine. As it turned out we only needed to motor for 45 minutes to get out of the wind shadow and start sailing again. The wind was really fluky last night which goes some way to explain the loops and twirls in our course, that and sleep depravation leading to an inability to read the compass. We now have the gennaker up and are making good progress in broadly the right direction. We are still at the back of the fleet, but perhaps that's the right place for Shepherd Moon to be, as she herds the fleet safely across the Atlantic.

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