Sunday, August 04, 2013

Buff's America's Cup Adventure 9/13

The first night

Jeez, if I live to a hundred I’ll never forget that night.

Racing east across a moonlit sea, flying at a height of a metre or two above the waves, effortlessly, near silent apart from the creak of sheets and winches.

It was dreamlike, as if some joker had either paused reality with a huge remote control or set it on fast forward or maybe both, looping us around and around the same couple of seconds. But what an ace couple of seconds they were. Made me all poetic like, imagining that the wave tops were beer foam and the moon ice cream.

And it wasn’t just a couple of seconds, it was hour after hour, so long they had to break into two watches, Rachel leading one and Ali the other, while Michael was on standby.

Every now and then a hull would drop and its prow would crash into a crest sending a fire hose of spray blasting through the yacht. They seemed to keep the nose a bit higher afterwards, no doubt fearing the Oracle Team USA nose-dive-of-death or remembering poor Andrew Simpson.

I bunked down in a sleeping bag in the leeward hull and tried to get some kip, lulled to sleep by the bearded Samer, who turned out to be a crooner and guitar player of some skill, learnt while passing time out at sea on his fishing boat.

You’re probably wondering about the facilities given Luna Rossa was designed as a day sail. Well there was a no nonsense approach involving a bucket stored in the leeward hull and we just chucked the contents over the side. To be honest I missed and that lovely mirrored hull, well, let’s just say it was a bit less reflecting the next morning. But I’d gone easy on the beers (as in none) so they’d been less heads trips than normal, which was a plus for all.

I had this great dream that I can’t remember and woke a couple of times. Once I saw the moon set behind us and the next time it was gone. I remember thinking jeez how do they sail this thing in the dark but managed to drift off again.

Dawn seemed to come early. I couldn’t remember the last time ol’ Buff had been up with birds so to speak (unless you mean the other sort).

I wondered where we were. We’d been going 40 something knots most of the night so could be as much as 500 nautical miles from Palermo. If the boat had been reported as missing who’d look this far away after such as short time? And still we powered on, Rachel and Ali’s watches switching over every four hours.

After the sun rose they kept a pretty good eye out, changing course to avoid the slightest blip on the horizon. I’d doubt anyone saw us as the mirrored wing just reflected the sky as if we were some sort of stealth rocket-ship, which I guess we were.

Once they let me helm and wow was that amazing. We hit 45 knots and that’s easy Buff’s speed record. They had to prize my hands off the wheel - literally.

“Better let me drive, Buff” said Rachel. “You’re going the wrong way.”

Ok, I might have been headed up a touch.

Soon after we spotted this little boat, and this time we didn’t do a runner but went right up to it and heaved-too. It was as if they were expecting it to be there.

“What’s up?” I asked, journo-like.

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