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A day mother nature can be proud of

10th June 2009

Barry Hurley Ostar Race Diary – 9th June  From a naturalists point of view, today had it all. David Attenborough would have given up his ticket to the Galapagos Turtle Ball to see what the North Atlantic had to offer.

During the night, just on the Eastern edge of the Grand Banks, we sailed through an enormous electrical storm. Lightening of density and intensity greater than I've ever witnessed, and I've seen a few in my time. We went right through the middle, with bolts going off everywhere around the boat at the same time. I stood in the companionway looking out through the hatch thinking "Great! The biggest electrical storm I've ever seen and where am I? Right in the middle of it standing under an 18m metal pole sticking straight up in the air. The only thing in the water for perhaps 50nm in each direction!".

Anyway, it brought a favourable wind shift with it, so I was happy in the end. Making straight for my goal, I went to make breakfast. After a while you get to know and recognise every single sound on a boat, the slap of the halyards on the mast, the gentle knocking of the spare parts moving about in the tool box, the rhythmic thud of the empty diesel cans moving with each wave... But there was a new one! A squeeky eeeeky noise llike something rubbing under really high tension. I couldn't hear it when I stuck my head outside, which was even more confusing... Then just as I turned to continue
the investigation down below I saw an enormous whale alongside. I'm not sure what kind it was. It looked like an enormous very slow dolphin, and was easily the same size as the boat. Down below again I could hear its call, now that I understood what it was. The big old fella stayed ariound for about another ten minutes and then lumbered off on his business.

The morning developed into a gloriously sunny, windy, flat water, perfect sailing morning. As the day went on the seas built and I found myself slabbing in reef after reef as the conditions got more difficult. By mid afternoon we were pounding into huge seas again, and doing anything on board was very difficult. I've learned how to sleep with one arm hanging onto the edge of the bunk, which is strange when you think about it. I guess it's not real sleep but it certainly works!

Late afternoon a couple of dolphins came to play. I don't know what it is about dolphins but you just can't help smiling at them. They went off to fetch some friends and came back with what I can only estimate was quite literally a hundred dolphins. I sat mesmerised by them for well over an hour. I have only ever seen anything like it once before, off the coast of Donegal. It's a real privelage to get to experience these things. They are the memories of this race that will stick with me. Not the jib changes in the middle of the night, or the spinnaker peels in big seas, but those moments that could only have happened here, today.

Enough narrative I hear you say, what about the race? Well I've been holding my own nicely in the fleet, but as I feared it was confirmed this morning that Oscar Meade is about 40nm closer to the finish than myself on "King of Shaves". So even though the official standings say that I am first in class, in actual fact that accoolade goes to Oscar. For now. Oscar is a fantastic sailor, in a great boat, and he deserves to be where he is for the way he tackled the ice fields. But I'm not going to rest until I've done everything in my power to get past him again. There is still over 800nm to go, and anything can happen in that distance.

For now conditions don't allow much opportunity to attack, but still I'd best get back to the slog of pounding upwind. It'll be dark soon. More tomorrow.

Barry Team

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