24/07N – 18/17W, 17 kts NE, boatspeed, 12 knots, spinnaker, full mainsail, autopilot. Changed from spinnaker to genaker last night at midnight when the wind dropped to 5 knots and the spinnaker would drag in the water. The genaker was better, more stable, made about 5 knots through the night, trying to escape to the west, from the little low pressure that spun off the African desert. We’d headed west, to cross paths with Pakea likely, he is in light air too. This morning, changed back to spinnaker again, when the wind freshened and stabilized.

These sail changes are not quick. Last night’s change took about 35 minutes of full-on work, sweat pouring off. This morning, about 40 minutes of full-on work. Why is a sail change so challenging? For starters, the sails are big: The genaker is 1500 sq. ft., the spinnaker is 3200 sq. ft. The genaker has to be rolled up, and the spinnaker hoisted. And with an 86-foot-tall mast, that’s a lot of hoisting. Combine that with lines running everywhere on the boat, making the sail change with only a headlight to keep everything straight, and being careful to stow everything neatly so it can be used again, and you can see why sail changes are not taken lightly aboard ship.

I did a Radio Vacation interview this morning with the Vendée staff, in English. I said in the interview that I’m going fast here, and that I am trying to fend off Michel Desjoyeaux–Ha ha! Michel is aboard one of the new boats in the fleet, Foncia (launched May 2007), and even after having to return to port for repairs, he will inevitably catch up and pass us in the near future. I hope that Michel hears that and gets a chuckle. He is Le Professeur, always ready to help with his ideas and consultation, revered in France, and he helped me a lot last winter with an extraordinary email exchange of information.

Anyway, le bateau va bien, et je vais bien. A demain.