Race 9 Day 4, Tues May 18th

18th May

Having finally got to bed at about 3.30am I was woken by Charlie from the opposite watch at 5.30am. The message was that everyone was needed up on deck to sit on the high side. I pulled my shorts on quickly, grabbed my life jacket and was greeted on deck by the sight of Cape Breton about 20 feet away alongside us, in a full head to head battle.  They appeared to be edging ahead. If it's possible to sit on the high side of a boat with 'full force', well that's what we were doing! Each of us willing Umba to go that little bit faster. We were quite close to the Jamaican coastline now and would need to tack shortly before we hit ground. Justin called for a tack earlier than needed. We tacked and so did Cape Breton. They were still there right alongside. Justin called for a dummy tack. WE would all get in place as if ready to tack, he would head up as though we were going for it and hope that they would leap to it and do the same. WE would then not tack. We went through the motions. They got in place ready to tack. They watched us like hawks and were not fooled for one second. We all stood down and got back on the high side again.  Almost as soon as we did, Justin called for a tack, and we were off again, with Cape Breton shadowing our every move. We were rapidly running out of water as land got nearer and we were closing in on shallow waters. We just managed to creep far enough in front of the Eagles Boat so we could tack across in front of them, without impeding them. We pulled it off, they were forced below us and we quickly established half a mile distance between us. It was a crucial move for us.  We were in second place. We had 5 miles to go to the next way point and then 20 after that to the finish line. We looked ahead and realised that we seemed to be making gains on the Aussie boat. We had thought them out of reach but now it looked like, that with a bit of luck we might have a slim chance. We tacked in round the next mark tighter than them and were also covering every move Cape Breton made behind us to make sure they couldn't sneak in on the inside.

Once round the mark we hoisted our mid-weight spinnaker and set off in pursuit of the Aussies, their spinnaker already flying.  There followed the most excruciating 4 hours. We watched as the leaders hit a wind hole. Their spinnaker going through collapse after collapse, they headed in close to the coast and got stuck. We stayed out wider and kept a sniff more wind and having dropped our midweight and gone back to head sails, we watched as the Aussies did the same, battling to get away from the shelter of the bay. We got closer and closer until we were 20 feet away from them. Suddenly we knew that we could snatch a win from the overall race leaders. But there was no wind for either boat and we wallowed alongside each other trying to gain an inch on the other one. They went for their windseeker and Justin called for our Lightweight spinny (our Six Million Dollar Dacronic, patched together spinnaker). Charlie and I watched like worried parents as our “patient” was hoisted. We couldn't see any holes (always a good sign), and it appeared to be flying and holding a good shape! Hoorah! The repair had worked and the sail was now playing a crucial part in our bid for our first podium finish.  Half an hour later and we'd travelled precisely 1.5 miles.  So much for our lunchtime finish!  Everyone on the boat was a bag of nerves. Movement was kept to a minimum and we were now all sitting on the low side to try and create some heel and help a puff of wind provide forward motion rather than lean. 
We tried every trick of the trade and so did the Aussies.  In the end we gybed to try a different angle to the wind. They didn't and got lucky with a tiny gust of wind which edged them ahead. By the time we'd gybed back they had a 50 metre lead.  All the time Cape Breton had been closing in on us and Finland had also appeared on the horizon. At one moment it looked like the Bretons might catch us. It would be too much to bear to be knocked back into 3rd place now. The tension was palpable as we watched the Aussie boat sail across the line between a lighthouse and a co-ordinate into first place. We followed them 3 and a half minutes later, gutted not to have snatched first place, but delighted, overjoyed and pretty chuffed with ourselves to have finally secured our first podium finish. It had been a long time coming and we knew we'd worked hard enough to deserve it. My thoughts went to all our friends, family and supporters back home who had been with us every inch of the way round the world – always offering encouragement. They deserved it too. Most of all Piers deserved it. Although I knew the news of it would almost certainly provoke mixed feelings I knew that he would also be hugely proud of the team he built and trained.  This one was certainly for him.