The start of the second leg out of Mindelo saw 100 boats full of sailors restless from too much shore time jostling for the windward spot on the start line. 

I felt I could breathe again being back on the boat with the sails up. The forecast was for 20 knot winds gusting to 25 for the next 5 days which would suit us fine.

One of the competition under full sail

We got a really good start and were sailing on a heading of 270 degrees in 21 knots of wind on a beam reach.  We settled into our watch system and I was on the helm for 2 hours from 3pm- 5pm.  The wind moved forward and softened to 16 knots so we pulled up our Code C to try and get a bit more speed.   

The wind was very finicky as we were still in the Lee of the outlying islands of Cape Verde.   The big code C started flapping and the wind vane was spinning in circles at the top of the mast. The next 30 minutes was a frustrating flap of sails as the wind transitioned.   Once out of the Lee of the last island we faced something different all together.  The sea had built as had the wind.  The sea state was very confused and the waves were coming from every direction. The predicted 25 knot gusts were actually 34 knot gusts and the boat heeled and rounded up often. We were overpowered at moments and she was a careening crazy little horse waaay out of control. All around us we could see other boats struggling in the same way.  We heard one boat radio in to say they were turning back to the marina.  The wind strength and sea was a bit more than any of us bargained on right out of the start. We worked quickly to get the code C down and set a reefed Genoa and reefed the main until it was just a blade.   We continued to be on a broad reach as it grew dark.  One of the crew made dinner and a couple of the crew started to feel sea sick in the confused seas and both took a pale green hue and grew very quiet. I didn’t have the luxury of feeling sea sick or queasy with two crew already feeling a bit ropey. 

My next watch was 8pm -10pm and the wind continued to howl and gust amid confused big seas.  We had all been soaked earlier and waves broke over the boat. So now I took the helm salt cacked and soaking in the darkness. This already felt like a challenge less than 12 hours in. I reminded myself that the first 24 hours is always quite challenging and took some solace in remembering that daylight the next day always feels like a relief.  There was no going back anyway.

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