The rival I dreaded was Val Howells in a Folkboat with a boosted up sail area. She had looked a fast boat, driven by a formidable sailor. And this was a race of man and boat; both equally important. Val had served his time in the Merchant Navy, was extremely powerful, and had told us he did not know what fatigue was. Looking at him with his huge black beard I believed him. He had had much sailing experience with a voyage to Spain alone before the race. Also, he had on board a keg of his magic brew, raw eggs mixed with rum, which sounded a formidable weapon in his hands.
Lastly he was a Welshman with a wonderful voice, so that whenever in trouble or unhappy he could practise for the next eisteddfod. If I tried to sing, the fishes would groan. Val, after the fourteenth day, was 900 miles from Plymouth. Lewis was 500 miles behind me; he had been delayed three days by his mast breaking, but had avoided that period of dirty head-on weather.
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This was the state of the race when I ran into big trouble on 25 June.
I had turned in the night before with all sails set in light airs, ambling towards New York at 3 knots. I had a fine sleep from midnight to 5 o’clock local time, when I woke to find the yacht headed due south; the wind had backed steadily during the night, and was now east-south-east. I retrimmed the sails and Miranda before starting to prepare the twin headsails for running. It took me two and a quarter hours to get the twins rigged, and drawing on the right heading. I thought this was good going, because it was only the second time I had run with twins since the yacht was built, and there was a lot to do. On every trip from cockpit to foredeck I had to transfer the snaphook ofmy lifeline four times. I had to unlash the two spinnaker booms from the deck. Then each of them, 14 feet long and 18 inches in girth, had to be hooked to the gooseneck 7 feet up the mast at one end, and to a strop at the clew of the sail at the other end; then hoisted up by a topping lift, while two guys from the middle of the pole down to the deck kept it from swinging fore or aft. The tiller had to be freshly adjusted after each sail was hoisted, because the sailing balance was then changed. When both headsails were drawing, it took me a quarter of an hour for the final adjustment to the self-steering gear, and then Gipsy Moth sailed downwind at a quiet, silky 6 knots.
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