But not for long: she's to cut it in half

Yachting Monthly magazine currently features ocean racer Aurelia Ditton and her bizarre plans for the future of her Open 40. See the December issue to read on. Meanwhile Lia has crossed the finish line of the 2006 Route Du Rhum taking 25 days, 2 hours, 26 minutes and 22 seconds to cross the Atlantic. Her average speed was 5.88 knots. Here is her report:

‘The line crossing; the end, is never quite what you imagine or have been
imagining for the twenty something days at sea. Suddenly people,
conversations and activity are moving at a hundred miles an hour and you are
climbing out of your foul weather gear at the dock side and spraying
champagne and being thrown in the water, with a cluster of people that you
don’t know and haven’t met, but who have been following you, clambering
‘What was it like, what was it like?!’ At some point later you wonder if
anyone would notice if you crept back on board and crawled into the bunk
with a muesli bar and went to sleep; sleep being the most delicious thought
on your mind; sleep having been afforded last who knows when.

So it is the morning after and I have slept, onboard amidst the debris of my
Atlantic crossing. It was a strange sleep that happened in bursts; bursts
because suddenly and for no apparent reason I would wake up with a start, my
mind having processed some thought incorrectly, perhaps that I was still out
there or maybe the wind rocked the boat and subconsciously I registered that
something had changed that required me on deck.

The last 24 hours left me with salt-sore lips. I was entirely on deck,
mostly at the helm. As I rounded the north face of Guadeloupe it was a
battle field of squalls. I was running west and there was an enormous
electrical, thunder and lightening spectacle right behind me. Thunder
cracked above, so inconceivable close that I feared a bolt of lightening
might subsequently end it all. On the radar the squall was tracking NW at
twice my speed. It was a tough decision to make- to continue sailing without
further reefs in the hope of out running it or to shorten sail at the risk
of being run-down. We out ran it. Slumped in the cockpit, flush with relief,
I inhaled the elixir of fresh rain- the smell of land.

The second squall was hanging off the western edge of the island. Its
progress was slow and behind it I wallowed in airlessness, inching towards
the mark at Basse-Terre at the pace of the squall. There was no option but
to hand steer, as the wind shifted and shifted and shifted back, the boat
otherwise perpetually on the brink of a tack. Then I looked around and there
was a green masthead light glowing in the gloom- another boat! Where on
earth did that come from?! Hilariously he illuminated his sail, as if I were
a fishing boat in the way! After that I went into a match racing hyper
drive- there was no way I was going to allow another boat to pass me at this
late stage!

The other boat suddenly bore away and curiously did a U turn. I assumed he’d
been hit be a wind shift, but as I too edged nearer the mark, I heard birds
calling uncannily near. I looked left. Right by the boat and on par with a
collision, was one of those giant steel drums that big ships tie up to. For
once I was truly grateful to have a canting keel. I pressed it into negative
cant and the boat heeled away with the sudden ease on the main; close call.
A line of light shone from the shore to the mark; a huge spot light, which
lit up the sail as we rounded the mark. You could imagine the crowds at the
shore front watching when the front runners came chasing in. The other boat
was now hard on my stern, I had managed to sneak past him and so we set off
for the end of the island, the pair of us sailing full throttle. Then the
wind built and I started to throw in reefs- it wasn’t worth the risk of
damage at this stage, even it gave him the opportunity to pass me. But my
actions were rewarded, by the time we cleared the bottom of the island, we
were mashing into twenty something knots, in a huge sea. Our leeway was
fierce; his was worse and for hours we snaked between an outcrop of smaller
islands and the mainland of Guadeloupe. I don’t know whether he got caught
with too much sail up or that his boat simply wouldn’t point, but I began to
leave him behind. My last 10 litre jerry can of water had surreptitiously
capsized with the tap open and so I was by now gobbling up any remaining
snacks and washing it down with Soya milk!

Mid-morning local time, mid-afternoon UTC and before America was awake, I
crossed the finish line of the Route du Rhum 2006. With only 12 hours to
spare, I made it!