I reached the Channel du Four at 5am on the Monday, storming in with the genneker, if only that had stayed! The wind spun round to the SE and I was now tacking up through the channel in the dark against the tide, in 25-30 knots. Just as I had arrived at my first waypoint for the Channel, the drama begun – my GPS turned off and wouldn’t restart, I quickly got my back up hand held out found my waypoints. Shortly after I heard a big bang and the main started flogging, my heart jumped a beat as I looked up at the mast! Phew – it was ok – it didn’t take long for me to realise that the shackle holding my mainsheet block to the track had gone. I quickly found some dyneema and lashed it back down, not an easy task while the main is still flogging, all while trying to avoid the rocks and stick within the channel. As always, distasters always come in threes. Next on the hit list was my wind data on my instruments, which meant my pilot no longer worked. I needed to unplug the wind data from the bus in order to use compass mode. All a bit full on – it certainly made for an interesting passage!
Once clear of the channel I was on a mission to fix everything, I started heading in towards the Brest coast my original routing plan towards La Plate and the Raz but I couldn’t get the boat to stay on a straight course. I tacked over and managed to get her to sit on a course just off the wind, I guess I’m going outside the Raz.
By this point I could see “Mojo”, German team, Morten and Felix in their Series who were catching me quickly. I watched as they sailed inshore towards the Raz, knowing full well I was going to loose out heading offshore – a frustrating feeling, but I was determined to fix everything.
The GPS I fixed quickly, having found a corroded and rusty fuse I removed it from the circuit and soldered the two wires together. I then checked all the connections for the wind to see if one had come loose and caused it to short out. Unfortunately not, the problem was at the top of the mast. I unplugged the data, which was causing the system to fail, so I could then use the pilot on compass mode.
While downstairs I noticed a fair amount of water, and soon discovered my ballast tanks had a small leak. Something I tested on land before I left, but with the waves and motion were now causing me problems. I tightened up the hatches as much as I could and kept an eye on them, sikaflex at the ready.
Life onboard was now somewhat more chilled, I was back on the helm and 10 miles from the cardinal marker off the outside of the Raz. Itching to get round and start heading South as I knew every extra mile I sailed West I was loosing out.
It wasn’t long since I rounded the cardinal that my pilot went down again, this time showing errors of instantaneous current too high. At first I thought I had too much power, with both my solar panel and fuel cell running. I turned both off and kept testing the system, but no change. The wind had now swung round to the West and there was a confused sea state, it was very difficult to leave the helm to fix anything. Now stuck on the helm, I realised the last 100 miles of the race was going to be very tough.
While others were frustrated on the final night when the wind died to nothing, I was pleasantly happy. I ran down below, changed into some dry clothes, cooked up some gnocci and pesto gathered everything I might need for the rest of the race and put it in the cockpit pockets, at arms reach. My road book, food, head torches, spare batteries, charts, water – I was set for whatever was to come!