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Around the World with Catherine Nurrsaw

July 24, 2006

Well folks, I hate to cast aspersions but I can't help feeling that some of you have not been doing your part in terms of crossing fingers or holding thumbs. How else to explain our thoroughly disappointing 8th place into Jersey?

We had a cunning plan to win - oh yes, so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox. It was brilliant in its simplicity. We would stay down in the South where a favourable current would add about 1 - 1 1/2 knots to our speed and where according to all the weather forecasts there should be steady winds, while those foolish enough to go further North would be battling with an adverse current and constantly falling into huge windholes. We were quite sympathetic at the thought of their plight, I can tell you.

Our sympathy diminished slightly as we fell almost immediately into our first windhole of the race. Admittedly we were still drifting forwards with the aid of the favourable current, but this hardly made up for the fact that the other boats were roaring along in strong winds. Never mind, we thought, looking at the next set of Grib files (weather forecasts - now known to be an acronym for Generally Ridiculously Inaccurate Bullsh*t) - think how silly they will all feel when they get stuck in that huge windhole while we storm past them on those strong winds that are just about to reach us.

Any time now those winds are going to reach us.

Yup, any time now....

I think it may have been about then that we made our record-breaking run of 16 miles in 12 hours. Meanwhile, the boats further North, blatantly ignoring all the weather information which we had which was telling us that they were totally becalmed, were making runs in excess of 100 miles per sched. It was, to put it mildly, a trifle discouraging.

Considered in the light of a cruise, however, you could not have asked for a better crossing of the Atlantic. Having left New York in absolutely torrential rain I had thought that foul weather gear might be the dress code for the entire trip. On the contrary, within a day or so of leaving it was back to shorts, t-shorts and bare feet. Without any tiresome wind to cool things down or make the boat tip over, we could lie out on the sails on the deck and sunbathe - with the sea as flat as a millpond there was no risk of being annoyed by a wave splashing over you. We also saw plenty of marine life on this crossing - hundreds of dolphins and porpoises, a couple of sharks, sunfish sunbathing and waving a lazy fin at us, a couple of whales off in the distance...

Lacking the competitive drive of some of my fellow crewmembers, I actually enjoyed this crossing, though it would be unwise for me to admit that in certain company. Plenty of good books to read, lots of lying around in the sun, dolphins to watch almost every day, glorious sunrises and sunsets - really not a bad way to spend a couple of weeks! However, it was very hard on some of the crew who are absolutely committed to finishing this whole race in first place, and of course particularly hard on Craig, though he managed to stay very cheerful and positive almost all the time.

Since WA finished in 2nd place (after New York) and we finished in 8th, they have now moved into 1st place overall, with us in 2nd and NY in 3rd. For us to win the whole race we will have to do amazingly well in the next race and a half (the race from Jersey to Holyhead counts for full points but the race from there to Liverpool only counts for half points) and WA would have to do rather untypically badly. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's certainly going to be a challenge. And unless you guys are prepared to do your part this time, by crossing every finger and holding every thumb regardless of cramps or inconvenience, well, I just can't guarantee anything....

I've been having a wonderful time since we got to Jersey. My cousin Helen has moved here with her family since I started this race, so the first thing I heard as we approached the harbour was a shout of "Catherine!" (which initially I hardly connected with me, since everyone has called me "Cat" now for the best part of a year!). I've been staying with Helen and family and they've been showing me around the island, which is very beautiful. There have also been plenty of Clipper activities - on Saturday evening we had a lovely picnic in the Gerald Durrell Wildlife Conservation Park, and last night was the prizegiving at Gorey Castle. It was wonderful - we could wander around the castle at will, and there were volunteers in period costume giving displays of musketry, archery, falconry and so on. There was nearly an unfortunate overlap between the archery and the falconry when an arrow shot over the wall and nearly made a falcon-kebab, but luckily no harm was done.

This evening is a slightly less fun Clipper activity, as I have been asked to help Craig with the appeal we are making against the award of a penalty point for sail repairs. For the last year it has been a running joke with my crew that I am a lawyer, and in spite of my increasingly plaintive protests that I am not, Craig has decided that I'll have to do when it comes to this appeal. I can only hope that at some point in the proceedings a trade mark issue is going to come up....

Given our precarious position on the leader board, it is now very important that we should win this appeal. So get in training right now for crossing those fingers and holding those thumbs, and don't let go until we finally reach Liverpool, please!

As ever, thanks to all of you that have sent e-mails and apologies to anyone who has not yet had an individual response. I'll try to be a better correspondent once all this is over and I'm back in England!

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