TRYBOOKING update 11 July 2014 in the 2014 Melbourne to Vanuatu race

Day 10 - 9th July Tuesday - continued

I realised that in my rambling about missing the modern day life of chit chat via txt msg was basically another way of describing home sickness, meaning, I missed talking to my wife each day and getting non-descriptive holiday updates from my daughter in Europe, other than, "Dad I need help with something", or "Dad I need money".

We are fast approaching New Caledonia and I don't believe I am saying this, but the weather is going to be lovely over the next 4-5 days, and what I want, is more of the bad stuff, so we can storm up to Port Villa.

It feels like we have been sprinting for 1,500nm, and by later today we will jogging, and tomorrow we will be down to a walk for the rest of the trip, all I hope is its not a crawl.

Good progress considering the wind is fluctuating from 10-14 knots, we should be at our first waypoint through New Caledonia tomorrow midday.

Louise and I took a stack of avocado's and beans and sour cream and made nachos for everyone for lunch. It was very tasty, as I found 2 stray tomatoes in the fridge that were diced for the top.

Afternoon was slow and boring and I just want bad weather!! So everyone I sense was quiet and reflective that its going to be a slog to Port Villa from here with light weather. Guys, lets do another movie. Out came the projector, and this time we reduced the screen to a sheet clamped to the dodger, which gave us a 50inch TV screen. We sat in the cockpit, broke out the beers and a gin & tonic, and with pop-corn, snakes, bananas (lollies) we sat back in the cockpit and watched a recent Jeff Bridges movie called "Crazy Heart" about a country and western singer. Pete manned the helm for most of the movie, and I took over towards the end. Very easy as boat speed was in the 4-5 knot range.

It does seem crazy that we are yacht racing with many comforts of home, but it does come with a shocking roster for sleeping and watch keeping.

Day 11 - 10th July - Wednesday

Well a lot of the night things were progressing closely, weather is running out of puff. We are still progressing slowly at 3-4 knots and we decide to deploy the Zero (Code Zero sail). That worked for a while, then the wind drops further and we don't want to flog it, we tried that during the Hobart race and gave it need for repair. Back to the Head sail, and we suffer on, this is not what the boat excels at. What did I say about a crawl, well we are there. The expectation of getting into the New Caledonia area today has slipped a day. There is no wind and no boat speed.

We saw a school of 5-6 fish following us at 1 knot at lunch, I think they were dolphin fish or mahi mahi, but smaller (don't quote me). Chilli Chick pea and rice for lunch. Grant has just finished the layering of pastry for the croissants for tomorrow, that has taken three days of preparation, and if you now how to make home made croissants, that is 54 layers of pastry, each one with a butter layer between it!!!!

ESCAPADE has caught us overnight, within 4nm, and I doubt we will hold her out tonight. She is lighter and points better, and it is just a matter of time before she jumps us.

Afternoon has been painful and finally we were East of the lay line and decided to head West of the line for our final push into our New Caledonian waypoint. At the pace we were heading we had predicted 24 hours, we were averaging 1.3 knots.

Lunch was a chick pea and rice dish, and I had 2 of those. We have settled into having a main meal late afternoon. Breakfast and late Lunch are filled with minor snacks, but that appears to be sufficent for everyone.

We were now determine to run a tack to the West, as the sun set with 2 holes in the clouds allowing bright orange beams through to the cloud ceiling above, it looked just like the Japanese flag, so as we settled for a long night, out comes a can or two of Jim Beam, and the obligatory GT with vinegar chips. As we sat back and contemplated how very close we were to New Caledonia, someone suggested a glass of red and another movie night, hey we are on this tack for hours, so we setup as per the night before and watched seventies Al Pacino movie - "Dogs Day", it had felt like it today.

Pete is helming, how did he get that job again, and during the movie, two crew headed down so they were prepared for their roster shifts.

About 30 minutes into the movie the wind shifted and built from the North, by end of movie we had 20 knots of wind and 7 knots of boat speed and a realisation that we could be at the entrance to New Caledonia within 5 hours at the pace were heading.

The preparation for entering the slot into the passage had been allocated to tomorrow's task, but fortunately I had prepared a route, so we checked and double checked and feed way points to the helming station by hand, as the 2 units are independent. We would most likely be doing a night passage .... famous last words. The run from the South was hampered by the wind angle and we need to tack to run east across the entrance before turning in, we attempted to enter the bay and found the current running at us at 2kts, so we kept an Easterly tack and decide to push that direction with the speed we had.

During the night I rotated through 2 shifts and when I left at 4am, I knew we would be seeing the channel between the islands until day break.

Day 12 - 11 July - Thursday

I awoke at 6:30am, peaked out the cabin window and could only see the sea. Where are the islands I was expecting. I dress casual lightly with tee shirt only and head into the cockpit. Grant is about to come off his shift and Louise will stay up when Stu arrives.

I check the helm station plotter and we are beating across the bottom of New Caledonia to go around. Apparently the Northerly and current flowing out of the bay meant it looked like a detour around the islands. I note a current on our nose of 2.5kts, we certainly have the angle and with discussion we decide to tack and see where that out us, and that is where this update stops. we are heading for our next waypoint through the islands of New Caledonia.

We have a Sched in 15mins - 08:00 - and we will discover the damage of the past few days, all I can say is, it could be worse, we could have been sitting off the New Caledonian coast patrolling it for days!!!!

Ok so not great, ESCAPADE have jumped ahead of us, and the others are progressing on the final 280nm from the passage to Port Villa.

This decision to tack and head through the passage has been a good one. we scurried through our music collections to find some French related song, and whilst we played these and organised coffee and tea, Grant finally presented, fresh from the oven, his croissants. The first batch tasted beautiful, but need a little crisping. The second batch was magnificent, you could see the 54 layers (or maybe 5) and these were so crisp. Jam and croissants, what else you do you need on a race yacht !!!!

The final submission will be in the day heading into Port Villa.