Saturday, July 26, 2014

Buff's America's Cup Adventure: Pirates of the Mediterranean

The Sunseeker re-started its engines and headed off north, towing the RIB behind it. As the rumble of its engines gradually faded it became suddenly peaceful, the sun warming my face as the breeze cooled it, the slap-slap of waves against the hull. It was a good time to look around me.

I’d seen the cat from afar of course, but I’d never been on-board. The scale was overwhelming, that wing towered over us like a skyscraper with mirrored windows, winches as big as beer barrels, ropes industrial strength, hulls long but dagger thin, separated by empty space. Where most cruising cats had a wide plastic space for sunbathing and BBQs all she had was netting, on which I took a few tentative bounces like a kid. It felt good - maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“We should get going” said the big man. “Ali, Rachel, now is the time to show us what you know.”

I saw them exchange a worried glance and then simultaneously draw in a big breath, then Ali grinned and Rachel nodded back.

“Let’s go sailing” she said.

While the big man was in command it was those two that were the experts. They did a tour of the boat together, checking out the lines, talking rapidly. Their language might not be one that Buff knows but some words didn’t need translation, such as mainsheet, wing, hydraulics, backstay, forestay, jib, back, foil and trim. Ali tugged on halyards while Rachel tracked the line back to the coffee grinders and switches, then in reverse she’d get two of the more muscular ones to grind slowly and Ali would check which line went taught. They’d flex the wing, bringing it left and right, testing as a pilot would an aircraft before take-off. Then they’d be pointing, working out things, agreeing to plans with a nod.

No one asked me what I thought.

“We are ready” said Ali.

“Go” said the big man.

“We will start with the foils up” said Ali.

The jib had already been rigged, it just had to be unfurled with a grind of its sheets by Rachel and her crew with Ali in charge of the foredeck. Partially open it backed, while the wing was swung in the opposite direction, together pushing Luna Rossa’s nose away from the wind.

“Photos, Buff, photos” said Rachel, and I clicked away.

There was this trickling sound, then it was like being in a car when the driver put his foot down, hard. The boat accelerated and we were suddenly racing, the waves flashing by, and the trickle became a gurgle, then that showering sound of spray against the hull. Smoothly, like a bridge being raised, the windward hull rose out of the water.

We were sailing. Already we must have been doing 15 knots and none of the sails were properly trimmed.

“Easy” said the big man from the wheel.

“It’s fine” said Ali. He grinned, though anxiously looking around.

“Power her up” said Rachel to the grinders, and with a groan of sheets we were away, slicing upwind through the waves, well over 20 knots. We were heading west, away from Palermo.

But where were we going? And why?

To  be continued....

(or you can read part 7 here)

No comments: