Update Day 6: Escape from Madeira!
The race has splintered into the expected groups with a breakaway group led by Armel on Banque Populaire and including all the new foiling generation boats with the exception of Peter on No Way Back and JP Dick on St Michel-Virbac who missed the move. Snapping at the heels of the break ahead are the best boats of 2008 and 2012 with great skippers like Yann on grey boat Queguiner and Jean le Cam who is racing his fourth consecutive Vendee Globe.
Behind the leaders and the chasers is the peloton of less optimised boats from the 2008 generation or before and the "bizuths", the French word for first timers. We didn't have the same speed as the others when reaching towards the nub of the high pressure, a position that allowed the leaders to gybe once and head south, so the way forward will be a chase to get west and south by any means possible!
Reading yesterday's lines about my enthusiasm for seeing lang again now seems quaint, as my love for the land evaporated with the rising sun. I had hoped to stay well north of Madeira but local wind effects tugged me ever closer like the world's slowest ever whirlpool. This vortex of doom (yes, did become frustrated) forced me to bail out by sailing down the channel between the main island and the small rocky Ilha de Cima and the even more desperate Deserted Islands... yes that is their real name!
I made a stopover in Funchal, Madeira's biggest city, during my first solo transatlantic race back in 2009 and I was able to relive many happy memories but as nice as Funchal is, it was with relief that I was finally able to slip the shackles of land and take to the seas again. When clear of the land I rolled up the big gennaker and replaced it with the big spinnaker which will be my weapon these next few days down to the equator. With nearly 400 square meters of eager nylon sail pulled me forward down a silver road painted by the bright moonlight, the lights of Funchal quickly faded and the high slopes of Madeiras' mountains fell back into the ocean again.