Final leg to Lagos…not Nigeria

RP12 Slideshow (60)

Its 0600 we are assembling along the start line I can see that the wind is going to be light, perhaps for half the day at least,  if past experience is anything to go by. The previous day Neil (Plane Magic) had helped me sort out the lines and launching process for launching the cruising chute. I had tried before to launch it but had always got myself in a tangle and given up. It is a tall order for one person with no experience of launching a chute – but I am determined to do it at least once before the end of the rally…

We cross the start line at 0620 with 3kts of true wind – perfect for the chute?. Jaz, pushing from below in the fore cabin  and I, panting from on deck, haul up the huge bag through the fore hatch and try to secure it to the guard rails, I secure the sheets to the clew (extremely long ropes that stretch back on both sides of the boat to the cockpit) and with some arm waving get Jaz to release the tack line that runs along the deck, through a pole and out of the bows of the boat, I attach the spinnaker halyard and make my way back to the mast to start the hoist. Then I realise that the  snuffer (a big plastic cone that helps get the sail down and bagged) needs to be tied down too. I go back and tie the snuffer line to the anchor windlass. I start the hoist and discover that although I have carefully lead all the lines “outside” of everything I am hoisting the huge sail in the middle of the genoa sheets. The wind catches the massive sail – still in its sleeve – but jumping around like a greyhound waiting for the gun and that pesky rabbit. I lower the sail and try to re configure – it wraps itself around me and I find I am wearing 1200 sq ft of sail cloth…it gets quite warm. I emerge from the sail to see most of the boats motoring away across the glassy calm sea, and then the final blow -  I see Scott on Katerina drop his deflated chute, bag it and put on the motor. This is the last straw – if Scott cant fly the chute today, no one can. My heart sinks, I admit defeat and bag the sail and leave it on the deck tied to the guard rail in hope that I will get another chance before Lagos – I don’t. That is a challenge yet to be overcome.

The sail to Lagos is calm as we approach the famous Cabo de São Vicente. Although this is mostly remembered for Admiral Nelson. It is worth noting that it was one Commodore Nelson who, after passing through the Spanish fleet in fog, was able to tell Admiral Jervis, on his flagship HMS Victory, the location of the Spanish fleet, but sadly not the number of ships in the fleet. It was Jervis who engaged the Spanish – forming the famous single line of attack behind the flagship HMS Victory – and engaged a fleet that outnumbered the British 2 to 1 – the year was 1797. It was a variation of this tactic that Nelson employed to great effect at the Battle Of Trafalgar 8 years later in 1805.

Cabo de São VicenteEnterprise was under full sail as we approached Cabo de São Vicente – ready to dip the ensign as is customary out of respect for the great Admiral Nelson. Within about 20 minutes the wind increased to 30kts and we were storming along with a list to starboard that put the toe rail in the water. I had to take the helm – relieving Sulu – and also try and hang on to the main sheet – letting it out as far as I could to try and reduce the force on the sails. I could see Plane Magic surfing along behind, they too  had been taken by surprise. The pilot book had warned that the Cape should be given a wide berth – but it had been such a nice sunny day and a great sail – I thought we could cut the corner and get to Lagos earlier. Wrong.

We did more than dip the ensign – we turned to face a 30kt wind – and then reef first the genoa and then the main – pretty demanding stuff for 2 people on a 44ft yacht. As we bore away Enterprise continued on with its regal progress hitting 9kts speed over the ground.  We sat relieved, looking up at the towering cliffs of the Cape and the lighthouse looking down its nose at us poor amateurs – you could hear it sniff “its not like the old days”.

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Full of hope… Up it goes…and the wind dies…
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time to reef… Cape St Vincent – on a calm day….
Cabo de São Vicente2 Lagos
The rocky coastline … Welcome to the Algarve..