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Ericsson 4 Leg 4 Day 11
The last five hours have been more eventful onboard Ericsson 4 than the rest of the day.
We were ( but probably will be again) sailing through thousands of fishing nets about 20+ miles off the Chinese coast, around the delta of the Yangtze river.
These huge lines of buoyed traps consist of two larger buoys, about the size of 50-litre drums, separated by about five metres by a piece of bamboo (or a substantially more robust looking piece of wood), which seem to be anchored.
From the bamboo is the net which seems to trail in the tide - often with a smaller marker on the end of this net about 10 metres down tide - or at least that’s what the majority look like. In amongst the thousands of markers are the fishermen working them on small boats and minding their own business.
Then add a few Volvo 70s and the excitement starts.
We went to leeward of the first one we could not avoid (the lines of this string of traps was as far as the eye could see), and, just when we thought we passed with no trouble, the two larger buoys began to chase the boat. Anyone who has seen the film Jaws will be able to picture the scene. The boat slowed a few knots and the line snapped and the buoys stopped chasing us, we all looked around in relief.
With the next trap we came up against we headed the other side, thinking this was the answer, and caught the trap again, but instead of the Jaws moment, the bamboo cross beam bent in half and snapped in two, the net then broke and we were off again. We all burst out laughing at the fact that we had no idea which side of the net was the correct side to go and the fact we had caused such amazing damage to the second one. Hollywood could not have made it more entertaining. Sorry fishermen!
The third one we struck broke, but part stayed on the fin of the keel and no matter what we tried, we could not get rid of it. We tried heeling and flossing and flossing and heeling, but to no avail. With Puma just behind us, we only had two choices: leave the rope on the keel and ignore the vibration and slowly watch Puma run us down or, furl the code zero and do a back down (reverse the yacht and let the rope and net wash off the fins), which would hand second to Puma, but leave us clean and ready to fight.
The latter it was. The sun had set and we had about five minutes before it became pitch black outside. So we backed down and off floated about 10 metres of line, half a green net and the small buoy. Puma passed us by about three boat lengths and we deployed the sails again and gave chase.
This was two hours ago. We have hunted them down and managed to poke our nose in front, but not without a fight, and I’m sure this fight will go on and on and on.
I’m guessing we are on the sprint finish now with very little sleep to be had for either boat. We are so close that we can see the reflective camber stripes on their boat’s sails which are lit up by our navigation stern light. So I’m thinking we will be about five boat lengths apart for some time yet - give or take the odd net – which, incidentally, we have just gone through another whist I have been writing. You don’t stand a chance with them at night - just hope we don’t get the wooden pole!
At least it will let the boys ignore the cold weather, especially the Brazilians who seem to be noticing the cold weather more than most. They are in full thermal gear including the ‘old public school boy’ grey balaclava - straight out of ripping yarn! Makes you wonder how the Brazilians cope in the UK when playing football away at Newcastle. Personally I have been in shorts all day, I say shorts - it’s probably fairer to say trousers as they hang well below the knee - but they are shorts on a normal person. I think my hard training at increasing my adipose layer over the last year has obviously worked very well.
It was a beautiful day today - sunny and crisp - just right for a pub roast dinner and a stroll along Cowes seafront or Compton bay (on the Isle of Wight) - a perfect winter’s day!
Well I’m sure the night will be a very long one here off the Chinese coast - after all it would only take a net or two to ruin anyone’s night
Guy Salter - MCM