By Brian Hancock
I don’t think that you have well and truly experienced life until you have been hit fair and square in the face by a flying fish in the dead of night. I mean that. I saw a tweet from Maiden that confirmed my belief. One of the crew got walloped by an oily midnight missile.
Now there are two distinct camps when it comes to flying fish. Some sailors hate them. They hit the boat, drop some blood, squiggle around leaving smelly fish scales all over the place before flopping back into the water. Others, like me, love them. There is nothing quite so beautiful as a flying fish in full flight. Yes I know that they are being chased by a larger fish looking for a decent dinner, but when they come out of the water and bank slowly to the right and the sun just catches their translucent wings, it’s a piece of pure magic. Plus they make good eating.
The few times that I sailed around the world our rations were mostly freeze dried, and as the name implies, the food was not that great. Take that back, my first Whitbread in ’81/82 we had a freezer on board and most Sundays we would enjoy a nice roast, but after that it was freeze dried mush, so a flying fish or two came as a welcome treat. Many mornings we would find them stiff and curled on the deck. They are attracted to light and if we were sailing with our running lights on, which was a race requirement, the fish would come in low and slow and hit the coach roof. We would gut them, scale them and chuck them into a pan of oil with a little lemon juice that would be a breakfast fit for a king (even though we were paupers).
The thing about flying fish is this; sometimes they came in through the open forehatch and would land on the sails stuffed in the forepeak. Weeks later, or perhaps less, we would smell something really bad and for the most part we thought it was Jannie’s feet, Jannie being our resident Swede. It was only when we dug out the staysail that we found a half decomposed fish. Now in full disclosure here, my second wife was from Iceland and they love decomposed fish there. Either three month decomposed or nine month decomposed. True story; Google it.
I see on the Yellow Brick Road tracker that the leading boats have slowed up. They are hinting at the edges of the doldrums and speeds are not a puff above five knots. This is when the fleet compresses and the boats at the back start to make up some distance, but they too will have their time in that lackluster zone by which time the leaders will have found a fresh breeze from the south and will be well on their way to Cape Town.
I can’t not notice the close racing between the Saffas on Sterna, Explorer, and well we know who the skipper is (Captain Coconut), White Shadow and Evrika. Less than a hundred miles separate them. In my opinion that’s pretty close racing on a race course that runs all the way from England to Cape Town.
I keep seeing Tweets (yes X’s, I know – makes me embarrassed to be South African – I had already circumnavigated once before Elon Musk was out of diapers). Anyway, I think that the photos have been Photoshopped. They all seem to be in full foul weather gear. By this stage they should be in bikinis and speedos. Sorry to leave you with that image, but until tomorrow…