OSTAR Sailing into Rhode Island

La Promesse sailboat sailing in Ostar by Th.Martinez

La Promesse sailboat sailing in Ostar by Th.Martinez

The singlehanded sailors competiting in the 2009 OSTAR are closing in on the finish line in Newport, Rhode Island. JanKes Lampe on La Promesse will soon be first over the line which is located between Castle Hill Light and Kettle Bottom Rock Buoy breaking the Ostar sailing record. The present OSTAR record for a 40 ft boat is held by Simon Van Hagen in Seatalk with the time of 19 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes set in 1992. La Promesse should break this by some margin.

The rest of the Ostar fleet, having sailed north along the Great Circle Route, staying out of the Gulf Stream, is now heading south around the limit of expected ice drifting down from the Labrador Sea. As the cold water current meets the warmer Gulf Stream off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland dense fog occurs. The competitors have faced the full cocktail of these adverse conditions on which they were fully briefed prior to leaving Plymouth. Added to this was the severe gale with 35-40 knot winds which occurred overnight on the 7th of June.  Some of the racing sailboats are very small. Eighteen year old Oscar Mead in one of them described surfing down the largest wave he has ever seen: “I rode the biggest wave ever (for me!) over the night of the big low, in the trough of the wave I was pointing up at 45 degrees to point at the top of the wave going away from me. I hand steered that bit, freezing and daunting rather than out and out scary but FAST!!!!!”

After two weeks at sea many skippers are suffering from boat or equipment defects such as torn sails or damaged rigging. Electrical problems and battery charging difficulties are high on the list of concerns as ever. Anything can go wrong and in isolation the skippers have no one to turn to for assistance. Only they can resolve their problems and keep going although damp, cold and tired.

Hannah White sailing the Figaro yacht PureSolo reports: “Tonight had all the makings of an easy one, kite up, average 8 knots for 12 hours, job done, oh how wrong I was. Having waited all day for the wind to shift south of east I was plagued by a few false hopes, gybing too soon and then having to gybe back. Now it is 4am, I have just gyybed back onto port, hoping that finally this is it, the wind will stay over 90 degrees…. oh no there we go 83. God this is frustrating.

To add insult to injury I am being totally done over by this gulf stream. I thought I had been very vigilant about where i went so as not to get caught out, but it seems that wherever I go I get the worst of it. Its like being back in the Solent, only you cant pop into Yarmouth for a beer and wait for the tide to turn. Please someone give me a break… all I am asking is a bit of a wind shift and some respite from the current… that isn’t too much to ask is it?

1am. It’s late for my blog tonight, sorry, all of you I expect will be tucked up in your warm beds, enjoying a disturbance free night… Not us lot out here I am afraid! Once again it is pretty windy and I am firing off on a reach trying to keep all the bits of the boat in one piece in a last ditch bid for the finish.

Today has been a text book perfect sailing day, clear blue skies, a steady breeze, the odd visit from a few dolphins and sea spray just warm enough to make you smile rather than scowl. Unfortunately I have felt a little under the weather today – not sure why, I fell like I have caught a little bug – but who from I have no idea – it must be that crew of 6 fat guys I have stashed down below that Oscar was jealous of!

This evening the breeze has continue to build and come round to the right, ready for a north easterly tomorrow, I have to say that I was half expecting it to have eased a little by now, but we are still careering (mostly in control) at about 9 knots towards thee finish line. No complaints from this end, the longer this lasts the more miles covered and the longer I have before I have to go on deck and shake that reef out!!

There is a funny atmosphere out on the racecourse. Oscar’s stealth situation has caused some unease against some of the competitors – knowing you have a rival in the midst but not quite knowing where he is or what he is up to keeps you on your toes. Rob, also will be sailing the last few hundred miles a little handicapped after loosing his big reaching spinnaker, which ordinarily would be playing a fundamental part in tomorrows forecast. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer too much because of this.

We have had a very sad loss today on board PureSolo, I am afraid to say that after nearly 2500 miles of abuse, my beanbag finally sustained what I feel could be a fatal injury. It has to this point taken a beating in this race, and has provided me with a perfect alternative to my bunk which has only been used once, but today after many heavy landings, the old girl finally split a seam making the inside of my cabin resemble something similarly to a ballpool for ants! For this evening I have done what I can to stem the bleed and tomorrow once surgery is open and conditions have eased I shall do my best to save her from her fate.

You’ll be pleased to hear, on a brighter note, that today was a day at the musicals on board PureSolo and we have had appearances from Cats, Joseph and indeed a compilation of ‘the best of’ and for a brief moment whilst sitting on the rail doing my best to replicate a crew of heavy men on the rail I decided that perhaps a change of career is in order and that perhaps I should be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest protégée… I think I sounded quite good with Jason Donovan…

Well it is now 1am… and probably time I got my head down briefly whilst the breeze is still being persistent. No doubt it shall be another night of being up and down like a yoyo, and with a spinnaker day forecast tomorrow I imagine sleep will be a rare treat over the next couple of days. The good news however, is that the end is definitely in sight… Wednesday tomorrow, and with a weekend finish anticipated it’s almost time I started getting spruced up for the big day!! Hmm… What colour thermals shall I wear?

Read more about the singlehanded transat:  Ostar

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