Since I last put pen to paper yesterday as we were approaching Monserrat, we have battled our way down the tricky coast of Guadeloupe, sailed clean past our competitors aboard Selene, rounded Les Saintes and La Desirade and are now on course for Barbuda. As Ben and I began our watch yesterday afternoon with Guadeloupe in sight, we set ourselves the challenge of making up the two mile deficit we trailed Selene by the end of our three hours on deck. We could see the wind ahead looking patchy and fickle so we got the binoculars on the case. With both of us having the sailed the race several times before we knew that heading towards the shore should pay off. As Selene sailed a straight course towards the SW corner of Guadeloupe, we turned Dorade towards the shore and picked up a fantastic breeze line and a significant lift. The AIS also revealed that we were now sailing some six knots faster than our competitors and within the first hour of our watch we had surpassed the challenge we set ourselves.
Of course navigating down that coastline can be very tricky and needless to say it took us a long time. Somewhere in the region of eight hours to escape the clutches of the wind hole. But we stuck to our strategy of staying just off the beach and it paid off. A little after a spectacular sunset, we spotted a small but distinct breeze line moving towards us from the shore. It was enough to fill the new ‘weapon sail’ our windseeker and we crawled our way past the corner and on towards Les Saintes. Zero to seventeen knots of wind feels epic and soon enough half of us were up on the foredeck submerged changing from the J2 to the GS and then finally to the J4 in the lee of Les Saintes. Having a low freeboard, big sea states can be somewhat daunting on Dorade and it felt as if we were being swamped as we headed out of the lee of these small islands and on towards La Desirade. We had not been looking forward to tacking our way up this leg of the race however the wind gods dealt us a good hand and the one tack we put in was enough to set us up on a perfect forty six mile layline.
We surfed past La Desirade not long after dawn hearing the crunch of the waves against the rocks that mark the corner of the island and hoisted our two A2’s. One off the main mast and the second off the mizzen. For a couple of hours we were making good speed up towards Barbuda but a vicious squall that hit bringing with it a sudden wind shift nearly threw us into our first ever full blown wipe out. Saved by a quick drop of the mizzen spinnaker, the new wind direction put an end to our spinnaker fun and now we are reaching under J2, GS, full main, mizzen jib and mizzen main. Breakfast burritos have gone down well and we are starting to contemplate our final leg strategy and allow ourselves to think about that cold beer at the finish. For now we are pushing hard and aiming for that class win.