20th Jan 04

The last few days have been pretty hectic, as our departure from St Lucia was delayed by new found roles as crew on a race boat. It was loads of fun, especially as we were racing on a monohull (belonging to a guy staying in the same marina as us). The motion was completely different compared to Thom’s boat, as without the stability of a second hull we would lean over up to 40 degrees.

The starts of the races were almost unbelievable, with 10 boats all charging for the same narrow start line. With no real rights of way, it’s a bit like a giant game of chicken, but played with 50ft boats. Fortunately everyone seems keen to avoid a written off boat and there were no major incidents.

In theory (according to the handicap system, which is horrendously complicated) we had the fastest boat in the regatta. In reality we were pretty much equal with one of the other boats in our class, so they were our real rivals over the three days. The first day we won one race, but came second in the next. Unfortunately the reasons for this are all a bit technical, but in essence we had our sails set up badly so three of us had to keep pulling one of them across the foredeck. This really slowed us down, as well as being a bit dangerous. Rowan now sports a rope burn on his neck, and I have a rather salty t-shirt (but was otherwise unhurt) after getting thrown overboard by a rapidly tightening rope. After three races like this we decided to skip the fourth and make some adjustments to the sails, so the fifth and final race was much safer and faster. For this race Ro and I were on the winches, which meant spinning a handle round at high speed to pull the sails in. It was at this point we started to regret staying out until 4 the night before. Fortunately all worked out well and we came in first (although after taking handicap into account we were still second in our category).

We’re now in Martinique , which is very French (an overseas departement rather than a separate country), the waterfront looking almost Mediterranean. Everyone has been practicing their French and getting on surprisingly well, although we haven’t yet hit the supermarkets to check their range of smelly cheeses and red wines. The plan had been to only stop here overnight, as we head up the chain to Antigua , but as usual plans have changed and we should be here for the next couple of days.

Lost the outboard off the dinghy yesterday, not a great moment. After spending about an hour travelling back and forth along the path we had been travelling , attempting to see the engine on the sonar, we gave it up for lost. Easy way to lose £1000. Thom decided to cheer himself up by taking everyone out for dinner.

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