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Decisions and Finale

We had made the decision to come east ,closer to the land where it looks like there are breezes inshore in less current . WTC look like they’re coming with us the others have headed more west.On our dawn watch we are drifting along slowly with the windseeker making 3 to 4 knots . The wind comes up more and closer to the bow so we hoist the yankee and drop the windseeker. A couple of local fishing boats make an appearance near us.
Some of the crew are bit disappointed when the next sched comes and we are in 5th. But quick measure on the map shows us to be 6 miles closer to the next mark than both Punta and Korea.
In the middle of all this it is wash day ,people are washing clothes and themselves ,and a backgammomn tournament is in progress.
By our next watch WTC are on our port quarter and there is an ongoing duel with .We gain they gain they come up high .We gain a little over the course of our watch. The 1200 sched comes in Visit Sanya 1st WTC 2nd.We’ve averaged 5.4(and WTC) Halong bay 0.2. Halong and Qingdao have more than 20 miles extra to cover to get to the next mark.
The next watch WTC are persistently there just behind.We are still in light winds with code 1 up but are making 9 knots toward the waypoint.
We are between the other yachts and the
mark.
Looks like the decision to come toward shore has paid off.

Really you would think things couldn’t be better when I hand over at watch change we are in first with WTC visible off our port beam and we are doing 9 knots with 80 miles to go. And the yachts behind surely have no way around us.

But……

Shortly before my next watch we are becalmed and the yachts behind have come east and only 8 miles towards the shore are making 9 knots of boat speed. After sunset we are still for the whole 4 hours watching helplessly as WTC gather speed and Qingdao and Halong Bay sail past to the east.

The breeze finally arrives and we are under spinnaker haeding straight for the final marks.The breeze dies out inside but it is too little too late.We get within 2 miles of Halong Bay when they get the breeze again.

Eventually the wind heads us and in morning we are on the breeze and beat towards the finish in Subic Bay and finish 4th with WTC 1st ,Qingdao 2nd and Halong Bay 3rd.

On the breeze into Subic Bay

Ocean Sprint and toward VM Infante

Finally some proper sailing. Again our watch sailed with light winds and the code 2 .A tight wind angle of 80 to 90 degrees and we are getting along at close to the wind speed of 8 to 11 knots.
Later when on support watch we go on deck to drop the spinnaker. This proves to be tricky in the increased breeze and my arms end up changed by the spinnaker from bear hugging it.
We hoist the staysail and drop the anti wrap net.
I wake to 20 to 30 knots of breeze from the North East. At this stage we are under full main and staysail .The sail plan can be handled but seems a bit out of balance. As we approach the ocean sprint we reef the main and finally hoist the yankee 2. The yacht is now steaming along and a delight to steer
Qingdao had finally edged themselves ahead and we remain ahead of the others.

Surfing Competition

So on watch change we set the code 3 .Support watch that were on deck were a bit leaves having just hauled up the yankee 1 and set it that I ask to come up the foredeck to collect the code 3.
So as is the usual procedure ,staysail down , spinnaker up , yankee down, anti wrap net up.40 minutes.
Tom has the wheel for the evolutions and the first part of the watch. I take the wheel the boat is nicely powered up down the waves but the sea is sloppy in between .Jorge ,our first mate basically challenges me to make 16 knots and that he’ll take the wheel after me and do .Anyway I max out at 15.9, he at 15.6 , and Carl later at 15.5 .Despite this the the sloppy in between condition means we only average 10.5 for the watch.
We remain in 3rd gaining a little over Korea.

Day of Contrasts

11 / 12 Feb
Wake in my bunk and realise boat is leaning the other way so we must have gybed.Came up on deck we have code 3 up with 15 or so knots of breeze at the end of Luzon strait imo South China Sea. During the morning the breeze comes up at times to near 25 knots.We have a broach early on and adjustment of the vang reduces chances of it recurring.
There are some good surfing conditions ,Tom cranks out a 17.9 knot surf .
Later in the shift I plunge down a wave at 19.1 knots ,the high染色体for the leg.
We were still in 3rd place around 10 miles in front of Punta.
Later while sleeping I hear commotion on deck .The kite halyard has snapped and the crew are retrieving the kite from the water.
I hear a bit later after the kite has been packed to re hoist the spinnaker and drop the yankee. The kite hoist goes well.As the crew prepare to drop the yankee I am thrown into the cave lockers near my bunk. The yacht has broached and Seumas is having trouble to control the boat. The kite is dropped.
I get out of my bunk ,still had more than an hour of ‘off ‘ watch,and went to the nav station. Punta has caught up considerably ,is visible behind and are still flying a spinnaker in the 25 knot breeze.
Seumas appears at the nav station talking about spinnakers and needing to try again.I said to him why don’t you reef the main first, he said good idea. In the prevailing 25 knot conditions reducing the mainsail area reduces the tendency of the main to round the boat up into the wind We reef the main and set the kite and get the yankee down.All gone well this time.Soon after this the wind is dropping and we shake the reef out. By change to our watch the wind has dropped further and we swap the code 3 for the code 2.All of this keeps us ahead of Punta. We are then running deep to try and lay the next mark .We are running ridiculously deep with kite collapsing frequently and at risk of wrapping despite the anti wrap device.Common sense prevails and we gybe then later gybe back. We now gain ground on Punta who are pushing deep.The wind continues to drop and we swap the code 1 for the code 2.We manage to get 30 miles past the mark before the wind drops almost completely.On the next watch the windseeker goes up .
We stay ahead of Punta who now head west whereas we head more east.
So a contrast of days from surfing waves to dead calm.

Steering gear issues ,racing for second

Get ready for watch ,white sails are up ,9 to 13 knots squalls all around. Punta have closed the gap and are only 12 miles behind .We discuss setting the code 3.The wind angle is 80 85 .There is a big squall behind and one approaching from windward ,North. Delaying the kite set ends up the right decision with us able to point up and skirt the squall while Punta fall into a temporary hole behind and have to bear away. We are able then to set the code 3 . We make ground quickly and after are watch are already more than 20 miles ahead of our rivals. The trade winds have sort of arrived but a there are still intermittent squalls around. The rain is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity. The next 8 hours we make our way a little further ahead from those behind .The drag race is on for second . Halong Bay are well clear But 2000 miles still to go a race is never over.

come up the code 2 is up yacht moving nicely i take the helm and it all feels great thr sailing we have been waiting for i hand over the helm we broach first time this leg
during the recovery i note there is an issue wth steering gear
we drop code 2 and hoist code 3 all goes well till watch end ,we broach and Jorge notes same steering issue
kite comes down
bar connecting the 2 helms is loose
overnight Punta must have had a problem as we still pull away Korea are catching us
our morning watch the steering gear is repaired
prepare code 3 for hoist but delay
later hoist it but breeze drops but code 2 being repaired!
we sail along

Our sailing in the trade winds continues. Under the code 3 we have Korea catching us due to the code 2 being repaired.The wind gets up and we now according to AIS are the same speed.The wind drops later and our code 2 is hoisted we now are matching sped with those behind us. Jorge does some helm coaching over next watched for a couple of our watch with not much spinnaker experience. Both seem to pick it up well.Our drag race continues ,who makes less mistakes which is the right line the lower course we are taking or the higher one. Time will tell. All in all these are a yacht s are a pleasure to sail in the 10 to 15 knots downwind conditions.

So the drag race for 2nd spot continues between us ,Qingdao,Punta ,Korea. The northeast trades continuing to blow between 12 and 18 knots.Code 2 spinnaker conditions today with the sea state building a little. Each 6 hour sched Qingdao always a little quicker .2 to .4 of a knot ,Punta and Korea , sometimes quicker sometimes slower.Noone really pulling clearly ahead.Us with a position further south and slightly ahead the others 20 and 40 miles to the north. Will a leeward advantage be beneficial in the end or will the more northerly boats get the breeze first Who knows !
Occasional squalls interrupt the trades with an increase and shift in breeze.One of our helms got to experience his first broach today during one of these.While at a relatively high wind angle we were suddenly overpowered with wind jumping to 23 knots.Despite easing the main we were not bearing away.I grabbed the leeward helm and asked my fellow crew member to let go of the other wheel . He looked a little bemused when he saw me turning the wheel what appears to be the wrong way, but of course this is to straighten the stalled rudder then as the yacht starts sailing again one is then able to bear away. Till one experiences a broach all this is difficult to appreciate.

Equator ,Corona virus

So we continually work our way north and west .Mainly upwind although sometimes a little off close hauled to get a favourable course around a cloud formation or squall.The wind varies from 4 to 14 knots but mostly below 10. A watch is continual trimming of the sails to get the most out of the light breezes.Vang on vang off outcall on off etc steer 45 steer 50 steer 55
the only ever sail changes are windseeker for yankee 1 and staysail
the weather is hot and humid
occasionally a squall produces a welcome rain shower
we cross the equator and Jorge makes a visit as Neptune.We sip champagne rather than having the traditional porridge pouredon heads.We are doing well and now are furthest north .
Where are the trades ?

At some point we hear about the corona virus spreading through parts of China including into Sanya. The problem out here is you only get snippets of news and arenever sure exactly what is going.It’s soon apparent that the situation is serious and means we are unlikely to be going to China.

Someone talk about a song theming race 6 we end up with an ode to race 6 to the tune of summertime.

Summertime
And the humidity’s rising
The Clipper fleet get’s away
Outside the great Barrier Reef

As the doldrums descend
There is nothing to cool you
Except a dip in ,
The Solomon sea


One of these mornings
We’ll reach the Northeast trade winds
We’re gonna hoist the code 3
Head for the South China Sea

And on that morning
CV 2 9’s a hummin
With Seumas and Jorge
Standin by.

Summertime
Will we make it to Sanya
The trumpet has blown
And released the devil’s little crowns

As we sail on our way
We await Mark Light’s guidance
Just where are we going
Sanya , or Subic Bay

If this were a cruise conditions are perfect.9 to 12 knots, white sails ,comfotable temperatures
we finally set a kite but it is not successful for long with wind coming round ahead of the beam
our sunset watch is another pleasant one with the boat tracking along at 8.5 to 10 knots
our track looks like straight line on course
the watch after us kicking along at 10 knots plus
just waiting for the wind to turn east heralding the arrival of the North East trades
we are now clearly in second place behind Halong Bay with Punta Qingdao and Korea hot on our heels 15 and 20 miles back .
We now know the destination is Subic Bay