Fantastic sailing

We finally left Figuera Da Foz on Wednesday morning. This was definitely our best start ever, second over the line. We had a cracking sail to Peniche, averaging 6.9 knots through the water, more over the ground when the current is taken into account. This was definitely our best race to date, finishing fourth in class 2. Class 2 is led by four boats designed to race, the handicap should allow us to compete on even terms however we are fully loaded for long term cruising so are rather heavier than the boat's spec. We were delighted with fourth place. Thursday morning we left Peniche for Oeiras, near Lisbon. As we had been rafted up overnight we had a gate start between 0820 and 0900. Rally Control sat up by the lighthouse and called our start times. Conditions were much as Wednesday to start with, force 4 winds from the north west and moderate swells. We were charging along at close to 7 knots with the mainsail off to windward with a gybe preventer and the genoa to leeward. This is a bit risky if the wind gets in front of the mainsail and slams the boom across to the other side, hence the gybe preventer. We would probably have sailed faster still if we had poled out the genoa as it kept losing the wind. We were amazed when the faster boats in class 1 didn't quickly overhaul us. The trouble with the Portuguese coast is that the wind accelerates around the headlands. The 20 knot wind only increased to 24 at the first cape but the swells increased a lot. As we approached the second cape it whistled up to 30. Just when you think you are over the worst we recorded 39 knots. By this time we had rolled away half the genoa and gybed it over to the same side as the main and were charging along at up to 9 knots! All good things (?) must come to an end and we sailed into a wind hole! We drifted along for what seemed like ages, it was very frustrating. We were very surprised to find the boat inside us was Serendipity and the one just ahead was Leviathan. We have never before seen these two boats once over the start line! We were delighted to get a third place and, as luck would have it, a prize. On most legs only first place gets a prize. While everything is going well on the sailing front I have not been so lucky. In Figuera Da Foz they are doing a lot of road building and had draped a 3 inch diameter pipe across a public footpath, lifting it over the sea wall. Unfortunately I tripped over the raised bit, getting a very big graze on my good (right) knee. Today, Friday, we went for a tour of the Oeiras area, including a gunpowder factory. I managed to trip over an uneven path, falling flat on my face. Luckily my glasses are quite flexible and the lenses are plastic so they survived however my chin took the major impact and doesn't look very pretty. This afternoon I painted our boat's flag on the harbour wall, just to the right of the picture I painted for Fair Encounter in 2009. Tomorrow we are going on a trip to Sintra, up in the mountains, and on Sunday we leave for Sines. I must apologise for the dearth of blogs but we never managed to access the wi-fi in Figuera Da Foz so I have been catching up here in Oeiras. If anyone reading this is interested, Richard has set up a Facebook page for Starblazer, check it out. More soon Joyce

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