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Pure yeeha

by Lia Ditton aboard "Shockwave" midway in the race.

Lia Ditton writes from the middle of a Force 8 gale Back in the race, Lia is feeling positive about the repairs she has made. The oncoming low will bring high winds and larger confused seas, as she tries to sail across the top of it. However taking advantage of the favourable wind direction has given an opportunity to enjoy the finer side of multihull sailing:

'You will have to wait until Christmas for new boots!' read the message from my parents, relayed by one of the 'Team Shockwave' shore crew. Don't be alarmed that this was the contents of their greeting of fair tidings! My family has always excelled in a wry kind of humour rather than sympathy. Had I been present when the comment was made, I would have quickly retorted that Newport was going to be a kind of Christmas, or at least the remaining miles felt like a 'hopefully we'll get there by Christmas' and I would ask if that qualified. In any case, I would like to point out that there is nothing frankly wrong with my boots.

[Thankyou very much Dubarry, for their kind sponsorship!] It would just be rather nice to swop them out for some dry ones. As for the return journey [the race is alas not a one-way-ticket!] I am sure there is such a thing as the waterproof sock. Any friends reading this in Newport, please place an advance order - I'll take five pairs of them, if you please. A pair of bog-standard Wellies from the nearest Home & Gardening store and a packet of Tesco Value square cloths that come in pastel colours, packs of three, [which Dad uses to wipe around the kitchen] would not go amiss either. While I was previously trying to make a departure from the sock saga, I might as well confess that the 'plastic sock' invention, despite the recent addition of sachets of desiccant, is not working out at all. My poor feet are suffering from 'boil in the bag,' syndrome and I wonder whether the effort of gift wrapping encloses the equivalent moisture to the standard already residing in the boot.

There is also the issue of seems. Now I have never been a person who has been asked to re-place their feet back in their shoes. Short of elevating myself into 'odourless' [naturally akin to "godliness"!] the repeated combination of continual wear and the proximity of wet foot, boot and sock has led to the revelation of an odour quite non-oceanic. This became apparent yesterday, when my used socks verged on a proximity to dryness while hung up on the boom. They had all of course gone for a swim during the flood. My conclusion of the day, was that any organic samples remain in culture conditions [i.e return to being wet] and preferably not in the cabin.

I also received news by text message, yesterday afternoon, that trimaran Houd van Hout had overtaken me by some 40 miles. Now Houd van Hout is a 37ft cruising tri [comparatively I am 34ft racing tri], extremely well build [Dutch] with roller furling everything and the most enormous tiller you have ever seen, that allows one to hand steer virtually from inside. Her skipper Leon Bart was planning to take the Northern route, while it was my intention to head somewhat further south. The joke before the start, was therefore on my part, 'I will wait for you in the middle, for a hot shower, preferably the right way up,' while he would respond 'Oh, you will wait for ME in the middle, for a hot shower, preferably the right way up?' the light-hearted banter continued.... To be surpassed [if only briefly!] by a sailing caravan [water maker, stand-up shower, the amenities list is sickening...!] therefore left me not very pleased at all! Nobody ever wins a race by doing more miles, but Shockwave weighing in at a humble 1.4 tonnes, with a tendency to barrel through waves with a meek 20 knots of breeze is no match for the extremes of the Northern North Atlantic.

Thankfully, for the last 24 hours I have been doing some serious VMG sailing at an average of 10 knots on a reach. Mr Houd van Hout better watch out!

In previous offshore projects, I have always been met with a level of scepticism that I would not have time to write a passage or make art. Some of the time that is true. Right now I am tucked away inside from a force 8. It is blowing a hoolie out there! Short of crouching in the cockpit spitting out the remains of waves and clearing ones eyes, there is not alot I can do. I have throughout the course of the morning gone through the entire family of reefs and the main is now completely down and lashed with more sail ties than I knew I had. We are sailing or rather surfing sideways on the only course comfortable, 285 degrees true. The signs of overpowerment are otherwise quite clear - one can be perched inside attempting to swallowing a sachet of Lancashire Hot pot [I read on the back that the meat is 'mechanically separated,' which might explain a lot] when Shockwave will accelerate away with her own boat speed. One lurch, slam, ke-douch and the contents of the wave breaks over the Godpod and rains down in the cockpit. Short of being picked up by Mr Houd van Hout in his caravan with the hot shower [it is about time for an ablution] I would prefer Shockwave to stay in one piece.

'Do not read beauty magazines! They will only make you feel UGLY!' is another great line in the Baz Luhrman monologue to music; 'Don't forget the sunscreen.' The chance, I thought this morning, would be a fine thing! It was a very sad moment at 3.39 BST [time of death] to have had to give the illicitly-stowed magazines, 'Eve' and 'House & Beautiful,' the heave-ho. They were attempting to papier-mache the cockpit floor.

Despite the current tempest outside whirring the wind generator like a swirling guillotine, last night ranks high as one of the most beautiful sailing nights of my life. Shockwave flew along with the birds. With white bellies and brown flecked wings, they were perhaps the mid-Atlantic counterpart of the Southern Ocean albatross. They swooped and dove, around and behind Shockwave until I felt sleepy. 25 knots of true breeze gave me a comfortable 11-12kts of pure boat speed. Grey rain-bearing clouds grouped and disbanded overhead as we charged on into the night. "Catch me if you can!" I felt like calling, as we outran the rainburst to the South. Hand-steering, the torque of Shockwave's sudden acceleration pushed me back onto the liferaft seat like into the leather seat of a Jag.

Phosphorescence shot into the distance - a thick stream behind all three hulls like Road Runner streaks. The windward float kissed the water surface with a flash along the hull like the reading of a barcode. Then the float would splash down giving rise to a shower of diamonds; fireworks of the sea, which christened the tramps with spray which shone like a spiders web in the dew. All the while the leeward float cut a path smoother than a hot knife through butter. This was pure 'Yeeha' sailing.

Published:June 2005 Make The Daily Sail.com my Your weekly PDF Newspaper Match racing homepage Swedish Match Cup, July 4-10 follow it at: www.SwedishMatchTour.com Special discounts for readers on Hotels, Car Hire, Airport Car Parking, Travel Insurance The complete Asymmetric Technique Series, re formatted into PDF for easy printing Don't even think of leaving home without them! Read all about the new products and gizmo's to help the racing sailor go faster Situations vacant and recruitment services from Marine Resources International Sailing Media 2003 - 2005