Race 11 Day 5, Thurs June 10th 
Leg 7 Race 11

Got up for night watch to find that the Aussies have closed the gap to 3 miles. Not sure how that happened but it's scared the living daylights out of us. I'm obsessive about checking the positions of the other boats on our Nav station computer.  It's a bit like standing on a railway track and watching a train coming steaming towards you. You just stand there transfixed and watch it happen!  Of course we are sailing the boat too but whenever I'm not doing something on deck I'm now checking out their distance, speed and course and comparing it to ours. We just about held them during our watch and increased the gap back by another half a mile.  The good news is that Finland appear to be doing something very strange. They went right into the coast, seemed to turn around and now appear to be going backwards. We have no idea what can be going on their boat, but as long as the crew are ok we are very happy for them to be going the wrong way!!!

By the time we got up for watch this morning the other watch had opened up the gap between us and the Aussie boat again to just over 8 miles. It feels a little more comfortable but with 65 miles still to go – 35 to the next way point and then another 30 to the finish – it really still is anyone's game.  The mid weight is up and flying well and has undoubtedly played a major part in us still being out in front. Charlie and I are very proud of our handi-work!
Unfortunately, that was short-lived. Although the wind was dying off a bit, the wave motion meant the sail was “panting” and the force of that was too much. She ripped again – although only half-way across! We then spent the next few hours changing between the lightweight and heavy-weight spinnakers which wasn't ideal but we were maintaining our lead – just. And then we hit a windhole and virtually stopped. Our boat speed dropped to less than 3 knots and despite our efforts we watch Australia get closer and closer.  They narrowed the gap to just over a mile when the breeze finally picked up and we fought our way back into the race again.  We rounded the mark ahead of them and looked like we were pulling away. Just when we'd stretched out another 2 mile lead we hit yet another windhole. 16 miles from the finish. We stopped dead in the water and could do nothing other than sit and watch the Aussie boat come closer than closer and then eventually go past us. I could have cried. After all our hard work and efforts and all our time in the lead it seemed so cruel that they would go cruising past at 5 knots, less than half a mile off our starboard beam. What is worse is that I sat and watched the other chasing yachts on our AIS system get closer and closer too. There are 3 of them and they are no further than 4 miles away. We could end up coming in 4th at this rate!

We watch as the Aussies start to head north, away from the coastline to try and pick up more breeze, and little by little we finally get moving again. Soon our speed is matching theirs, but they are ahead – just. The finish line is now directly into the wind so we will have to do a series of tacks across the wind to get to it. I sit in the nav station unable to bear looking at the Aussie boat but also so I can call all the stats out to Justin. I'm calling the bearing we need to the finish line all the time and also every small wind shift so we can make the most of it. The wind does veer 20 degrees in our favour and we get lifted nicely to keep our angle closer to the finish.  We opt for a series of tacks or zig-zags keeping us closer to the coast. We watch as Australia head north, very obviously hoping to head up high enough to tack once and get one long run in to the finish. It's absolutely neck and neck and I'm measuring tacking distances and angles and trying to work out who has the edge. They tack once and it's obvious they can't get the angle to make it in one go and tack back again too quickly to try and rectify it. When they tack back to once again try and run in and I see that once again they won't make it, I'm fairly sure we can do it. I call Justin and he checks the angles and decides to head up so we tack right in front of them. We do so and tack almost a mile in front of them with just 5 miles to go to the finish line. We then also have slightly better speed but also the tactical advantage. We can watch what they do and cover their every move, so as long as we don't stop and they keep going we start to believe that finally we are going to win our first race. We still can't quite make the angles and end up tacking another 4 times, everyone tense with nervous excitement and barely saying a word – you can almost hear a pin drop on board as we creep across the finish line and wait to hear the official confirmation that we've done it.  Then the whole boat erupts into an explosion of hugs, kisses and whooping for joy. Our first win, hard fought for and nobody could deny, well-deserved. I'm caught in a frenzied whirl of hugging, while trying to video and also text friends and family back home to put them out of their on-edge misery and share the joy!

We then applaud Australia as they cross the line and both boats stay to give 3 cheers to Cape Breton, the home boat who also fought so hard to claim local honours and will have been disappointed not to be able to sail into home waters as victors.

By the time we entered the marina and moored up and had the usual official photos we were all on our knees. The Cape Breton welcome was as warm and friendly as we could hope for and as we approached the marina, locals who had all come to see us in honked the horns of their parked cars in noisy applause. We were given a hot meal and a free beer but instead of partying all night in our usual fashion, nearly all of us sloped off to bed relatively early. We were elated but totally exhausted. There would be plenty of time to celebrate during our 9 days’ stay here.