Jazz update Friday 1st July

The tough north Atlantic isn’t really living up to its billing. So far it’s been benign and pretty much all downwind, spinnakers and sunshine. No one on the crew is complaining though as we know we still have a whole ocean to conquer after we clear the Grand Banks on Sunday.

So far, one mile to windward and over 400 miles ‘down-hill’! We could just do with a little more wind to really bring ‘Jazz’ properly to life. She revels in stronger winds and hopefully we should see bigger winds and waves next week.

We had a busy start sequence and managed to make a school boy error by jumping the gun after avoiding a collision with one of our German rivals that tried to barge into us. We quickly rectified the error of our ways, restarted and was soon back in contention. Fortunately for us, all the boats ahead initially misidentified the first turning mark out of the river and we made a big gain back by cutting the corner and within 15 minutes we had moved up to second place.

Whilst we are heading our Class, leading our fleet is the American 64 footer ‘Zaraffa.’ She is racing in a different Class and already owes us three hours on corrected time, but we think she will be one of the main boats to watch. She is quite a bit faster in the light conditions we have mainly seen, but on the windy reach past Martha’s Vineyard we wriggled our way into the lead with some good helming by Brendan Garner.

On the chart, the ‘treacherous’ Nantucket Shoals are marked as ‘a place to avoid’. We can see why.

Lots of shallow sand banks that tend to migrate with very strong currents but the lure of a big gain on the rest of the boats if we could take the short cut through. Both Jazz and Zaraffa made it through two small gaps in the sand banks, but it was certainly tense work and this time it wasn’t good to be the leading boat.

The wind had now moderated to only 10 knots from the west, but such was the strength of the currents we found that It was hard to distinguish between standing waves from tidal rips and water breaking on the sand banks. On this occasion, Zaraffa seemed very happy to follow in our foot steps. After negotiating the last gap in the shoals, helmsman Christian Ripard had to reach for his first cigarette in many months.

We think we hit a sleeping sunfish earlier today, which momentarily slowed our progress. After passing to the south of the prohibited whale breeding zone, we duly saw several whales and have since seen a shark and one lonely dolphin.

Probably the highlight for the crew so far was being overtaken by Maltese Falcon at sunset last night. As competitive sailors we don’t relish being over taken by anyone. This was different.

At nearly six times our length, she sportingly sailed through very close to leeward and we loved it – what a majestic sight she made under full sail. She planned to pass one of her boat lengths to leeward and we sneakily tried to soak down closer to try and get a free ride on her quarter wave and got down to 30 metres away as two of her stewards called across.

What we didn’t bank on was amount the wind dropped close to windward of her three ‘square rigged’ masts. We thought we knew about wind shadows around yachts, but this one we badly under estimated and saw an average wind of 14 knots drop to less than 10 knots as she serenely glided by. Five minutes after she passed, we gybed on a small shift and we were all quietly impressed to see her doing the same gybing on the shifts as if she were a 50 footer.

Andy Hudson is presently cooking up another freeze dried gourmet delight in the galley. Anthony Haines (Ski) is trimming the spinnaker and sharing a story about racing on Ran with Craig Nutter (Lightning). Off watch Tim Davis is quietly snoring in his bunk whilst Jake Newman is laughing and listening to Aussie ‘12th Man’ on the deck speakers as he trims the mainsail. Nigel King is poring over the latest news on the fleet tracker. Then there is Christian Ripard in full sartorial sailing elegance back on the helm in the sunshine in his blue shorts and grey tights, at least he is hitting the numbers and Jazz is heading east as fast as she can.

Mike Broughton

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