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Finding Nema

by Lia Ditton aboard "Shockwave" near Newport.

Closing on the finish line of the Faraday Mill OSTAR, Lia Ditton sends her latest report from Shockwave Lia has been very active on the computer today, and she is getting more excited as she nears the finish in Newport. Even in the closing stages of the 2,500 mile treasure hunt, Lia is still finding unopened presents scattered over the boat - even after nearly four weeks at sea.

The Sea-Me radar spotter has been very active now that she is nearing the coast and its both comforting yet annoying that the alarm is constantly going off now. She is very happy that the unit is working well and actively showing her amplified image onto the other ships radars.

At 1700 BST Shockwave had only 312 miles to go to the finish, and Lia is still confident of a Saturday finish:

I may have yet to find NEMO this race, but NEMA appears to have found me. The arm of the international 'Cult Multihull' continues to astound me, by extending its welcome in the form of, The New England Multihull Association (NEMA). If there were already two important Davids in my life [David Payne and David Melville from Mastervolt] there is now a third, David Steel. David Steel is a member of the New England Multihull Association, and has himself done a Whitbread without a budget, on Liverpool Enterprise, ex-Atlantic Privateer. It is a stroke of undeniably good fortune that Abraham Treadwell, [Team Shockwave shore crew manager] has come to make his acquaintance. Arrangements for Shockwave, and her repair are subsequently in hand.

With only 312 miles to go, Shockwave's sprint to the finish has begun. It really is a sprint because I have six army surplus food sachets left to go, before I take up, fully-fledged, the 24hr cereal bar diet. My attempt at rationing the Sausage Casserole sachets, to spin out a menu for six days rather than three, ended after two days of indigestion. Whereby I decided that the slim-fast option of 'no food' was preferable to the incompatible mix of too much chocolate and not enough carbohydrate, especially if that carbohydrate arrived by the lump [as in the Beef casserole with dumplings.] To watch the TTG [Time to Go] box on Raymarine TV last night, nose dive from 99h 59mins 59secs [the figure at which it has been static for the past 2500 miles] to 52hrs 24mins and 39secs was therefore pure delight, as we creamed along at 16 knots, never dipping below 11.5. Lia was inevitably parked in front of said speedo for the duration, perched on the companion way step, going 'Yeeha!' Despite the sea state being non-existence, there was a point at 14.4 knots where the cockpit was being rained upon continuously and swirling with a wash of white froth. 'I had better dump the traveller,' Lia thought extending an arm out from underneath godpod cover, to the clutch for release. There was also a point at 15.6 knots when Lia thought, 'Ah!' I had better dump the main sheet,' extending an already drenched arm out towards the mainsheet winch. And so with a more comfortable sail plan [only the jib actively working] we continued to rocket.

After spending the morning in bed yesterday, as per custom [I am a night-owl], I decided it was high-time I applied myself to some house keeping. Sadly I couldn't take directives from the magazine 'House and Beautiful,' which had been illicitly stowed aboard perhaps for that purpose, because it had long since denigrated into paper pulp and is currently back at the lat and long 48 34degN and 32 43degW entertaining the fishes. Decked in my blue marigolds I was quite pleased at my industriousness. I cleaned the kitchen floor, the living room floor and the bathroom floor all in one afternoon, [ie I cleaned one floor!] and found nuts and raisons in the most obscure of places. Now within rescue-able distance from Halifax [120 nautical miles], I concluded it a reasonable time to open the soggy papered treasures [from the 2500 mile series] hidden in the grab bag. The package which resembled in structure a sachet of Cadbury's hot chocolate, labelled, ' For when you really need help,' was in fact an Andrew Collinge BLONDE highlight enhancing conditioning treatment, [24.5g with UV filter] and 'For when everything is going wrong,' was a silver plastic wand with glitter and pink fur strands and white plastic beads attached. The pink plastic star ontop of it had the words 'I WISH' written on it. 'Right!' I thought, let's have some wind [we were crawling at 1.7kts] and then let's see what you can do for 'The Master.' Clearly you only get one 'Wish upon a star,' because despite being parked right next to 'The Master,' the generator continues to bear a piece of duct tape on which I have written, 'Out of Order.' As for the BLONDE highlight enhancing conditioning treatment, second to Ecover washing-up liquid as my Vidal Sassoon choice, I might actually give it a go.

Having just surfaced from the above mentioned cabin chores, I am standing on deck admiring the sunset. The breeze has yet to fill in [and send us careening into the night at 16 knots] and so all 25 miles of my panorama are draped in an airy silence. Shockwave like a new-born baby is never silent. She rattles her halyards, shakes the main and pats the water with her floats with a perpetual low-level gurgle along the waterline. Like a branch snapping in a distant forest, I hear a release of pressure. The red jib halyard droops slack in its mast exit. Inside Lia there is a surge of horror. (I had come up on deck in the night with a flash light on more than one occasion, to check that the jib was still up, and not slipping down the foil, the halyard having given out). A word does not pass my lips. There is no thought contemplation in my mind. I am in my harness and at the base of the mast clipped onto climb, before you could have uttered the word, 'but..?' If you had offered me black-forest cherry gateaux with home-made ice-cream, I could not have scaled the mast any faster. The fractional kite halyard was snap-shackled to the top of the sail and I was taking up the slack at the base before the sun had sunk an inch further down the sky. 'How energising!' I remarked to myself, 'the efforts one will go to, not to heave a jib up a furler foil by sitting at the bow hauling on its halyard.' And so I treated myself to a cereal bar- banana and coconut with milk chocolate.

'I'll take two please,' I will unhesitatingly respond if you ask me how many wind generators, petrol generators or autopilots I would like to take next time. Roger Langevin is the mischievous-looking Franco-American with the Salvador Dali-esque moustache. Nobody could have missed at the start, the two Air X Marine whirring guillotines poled off the back of his trimaran Branec IV. Ellen Macarthur we heard, had the misfortune of having to fix both generators during a spell in the Doldrums and Mike Golding installed two autopilots for his solo Challenge 67 mash around the world the wrong way. So it should really come as no surprise to hear that the 'Master' [TG950], the petrol two-stroke generator aboard Shockwave, left in charge by itself, has taken early retirement. Despite best efforts to enhance plug to socket, electrical connectivity the other day, the problem has shown itself to be far more extensive. For one, I discovered a puddle of oil beneath the exhaust outlet. [How the 'Master' had managed to fracture a not only welded, but stainless steel bit of tubing is most impressive.] Unfortunately this would explain my abrupt awakening in the night, by the CO2 monitoring device, the 'Fire Angel.' According to Simon, who is now more than anything intrigued to fully diagnose the ailing 'Master,' that leaves a possible loose magnet near the coil or a failure to engage the alternator on pulling the cord for the starter motor. The 'Master' in the meantime remains in bits and Lia is glued to the battery monitor preying for the breeze to hold out.

Sting's 'I dream of rain oh-lay-oh-lay,' should be superimposed with 'I dream of wind oh-yeh-oh-yeh,' 'Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,' likewise with 'Blow the wind W/NWesterly, W/NWesterly, W/NWesterly..' alas neither have quite the same ring.

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