Missing steaks, beer/whisky and wo/men

Mark Turner, skipper of England I, reports on the criss-cross chase of the Round Britain Challenge '96

Report 1300 Tuesday

Last night was long and very tiring - at sunset we continued to battle it out with France II (Dominic Bourgeois), having spent all afternoon crossing within metres of each other. The night was pretty miserable for everyone in the rain... a measure of something, I guess. We made a big error by going too far north and ended up easing sheets to clear Dodman Point. The French followed us in, and we both lost our "comfort zone" lead and as the sky cleared in the early hours we could see seven boats in the fleet and the race restarted. That's yachting, I guess!

We have been going to windward ever since, which is demotivating for us, as we can't get within 10 degrees of the heading of the other boats. Going through the straits between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly was a little tense, as we were losing ground rapidly, with the tide turning against us. A lift at the last minute saved us, and we have since climbed away from the Scots (we think) to hold on to the second place, with the French not too far ahead. Now we are all sailing away from land (at last) towards the Fastnet. Our biggest problem is our inability to point and we are already a mile to leeward of the French. Conrad Humphreys (first mate) and I have tried everything to solve this, and have considered turning the genoa around as I am sure it would look better.

Aboard, the crew have been taking all this very well, despite the rain boredom. Conversation standards have dropped to low levels, none of which can be repeated, but the girls are firmly in charge it seems. Morale is excellent, and we are all meditating to get a wind direction change. Not one person has complained yet about anything, which surprises me - we have been moving crew weight around continuously, no peace at all.

Sandwiches for lunch; to the delight of the crew these will be served in the sunshine on deck (crouched to leeward), with some dolphins in close company. The French are also having lunch, as we are following their trail of rubbish... We have a problem with the water which is causing a bit of a headache and we're having to boil any water used. Not sure what is happening but it is not very clean.

One of the amusing parts of the Teacher's Challenge is the inter-team communication - each team has developed its own methods of trying to get a VHF link without others knowing or understanding.

None of us can understand the Irish, although we've tracked down their channel and the French obviously don't realise that we can understand them - very amusing listening to their chats!!

A hundred and fifty slow miles to go to the Fastnet. We are hoping desperately for a change of wind so we can stop using our genoa. We know we can go faster on other points of sail. The crew are talking of "all" the things they are missing and I have already heard steaks, beer/whisky and wo/men. Just like all other offshore races, then.

We have observed a new phenomenon on board: FOF - Fear of Failure - experienced by all Teacher's Challenge crew as all are so concerned not to let their team-mates down.

For Conrad and me, the last 24 hours have been pretty sleepless. With the competition between the five nations so close there has been a lot of adrenalin running and we have been having to support and teach the crew at the same time, which adds a new dimension to the sailing. The crew on board Pride of the Isle of Wight are a mixed lot from very different backgrounds. City finance managers are prone to certain injuries - soft hands and light spinnaker sheets are causing blister problems for Peter Tarimo.

We are in the middle of a chess game with the situation changing every 10 minutes.

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