Yes woooo we got a 4th! Very happy!
It was the toughest leg by far and very uncomfortable! I think the poor Omanis had never been so cold in their lives.
We started well just off the marina from Abu Dhabi on a very cold and cloudy day, we got ‘the’ boat end start and then got quickly onto port which was the long tack to the mark. Unfortunately we got quite quickly rolled by both Averda and the Dutch teams and then eventually Zain who had overstood the top mark so were coming down on a fast lower angle. It took us a little while to get up to speed with the new heavy wind jib number 3 which is a lot smaller and flatter and to cope with the enormous sea state that was incredibly hard to sail through. Once we had rounded the first mark it was onto the start of the upwind all the way to Dohar for 170miles!! There were some little oscillating shifts and we played them as best as we could and made lots of little gains and kept the boat going really fast in the enormous waves!
As night fell we tried to keep up the momentum through the sea state which we now couldn’t see. As we ploughed into every wave, you just had to go on feel of the boat as it started lurching down a wave making a shape, bearing away and hoping to go down the back of it safely without slamming the boat too hard. Even in daylight this was hard and mountains of spray kept pouring over the deck. We were taking on water and so had to bail out every hour or so, several buckets of dirty water had to be sponged from the bilges whilst the boat was jumping around like a rodeo bull! And after every tack we had to move ‘the stack’ which contained all the spare sails, kit bags, safety equipment, food bags and water bottles. The sound downstairs sounded like the boat was about to break in half on every wave! it was truly vomit inducing! But one of the girls Marwa was an absolute rock star she has a rock solid stomach and didn’t mind being thrown around downstairs and always come up with a big smile of her face!
There was very little opportunity for sleep as we needed all the weight on the rail as much as possible so took in in turns one at a time to sleep on top of the stack on the windward side downstairs amongst the water leaking in through every fitting and every window and the loud banging and lurching that felt like being on a rollercoaster. Oh and we will wake you up every 20 mins to tack and you have to move everything over and then get back to sleep again, not optimal sleeping conditions but if you’re tired enough you can sleep anywhere!
This leg was also pretty tough in terms of navigation, there are hundreds of oil rigs and little islands and ships and all sorts of obstructions that we had to navigate through and someway about half way through this we hit the most enormous wave the whole boat shuddered and everyone nearly fell off the side of the boat and the iPad which we had been using to navigate jumped out of the deck bag where it had been firmly placed and made a dive for freedom, I looked around just to see it drop out of the back of the boat! Very upsetting!
Also due to all the water inside the boat our electronics kept playing up and every 20 mins or so the instruments would go off completely so we were sailing around with no idea where we were going or how fast and just had to do it totally by feel! After a bit of bailing and fiddling we managed to always get them back on. One of he other boats, Zain had fused their electronics completely and were sailing around with no navigation lights on the top of their mast so we couldn’t see them at all! Until they literally crossed behind us by a boat length! We called them stealth Zain and on the radio they told us they weren’t trying to cheat they promised!!
Half way through the night we received radio messages from one of the boats Imico who was taking in water from the hole where the depth sounder is in the hull and required immediate assistance. The race committee dashed back towards them and we followed their broken transmissions until they managed to plug the hole but after fusing all the electronics had to be towed to safety. Towing in these conditions would have been horrendous! Now we were without any safety cover and really alone!
In the night it is very disorientating and the only things you can see are the nav lights on the top of the boats masts and you have to try and remember which boat is which before the sun sets and then when dawn comes it’s usually a big surprise who is who and where you have all ended up!
We had a bit of a shock as Renaissance who had tacked really far out to the right of the whole fleet got an enormous shift and were at the front but we had overtaken the Dutch and managed to put some distance between us and the rest of the fleet. As dawn came the race committee decided to finish the race slightly early for safety reasons to try and keep the fleet together so we knew we just had a few more miles to keep the boats behind us and did some good match racing covering on the Dutch team who were gaining on us all hiking hard towards the finish line. The last obstacle was the finish which was between a virtual waypoint and 200 metres to the side of it. Without our iPad we struggled to find exactly where this was, but by trial and error with the hand held gps we managed to locate it and were met with congratulatory messages from the boys who had finished just ahead!
Very tired and happy we crossed the line!!
However due to finishing early we still had another 45 miles to sail to Doha! So we had a little rest and ate the food we had left that hadn’t got wet or perished in the conditions whilst we waited for the rest of the fleet to finish. Downstairs was a mess loads of water everywhere soaked everything, exploded our rubbish bag and was generally very unpleasant!
We then motor sailed for 6 hours and eventually made it to Doha and into the comfort of the Hilton hotel for a good rest!
Never have I been so happy to be in clean dry sheets and to have a warm shower!
The girls did really well on what was no doubt the hardest leg we have done and have ever done out here in Oman! Battling cold and seasickness I really hope they turn up tomorrow for the inshore racing!
Over and out M x
An enormously long sail, dead into the wind from Abu Dhabi to Doha, turned into a mighty 36 hour slog against 20-25 knots of not so warm wind. The girls did fantastically well, managing to stay with fleet and finishing an incredible 4th – beating many of the Pro mens teams. More details tomorrow once they have had a sleep.