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RACING ALONE
Francis Chichester
October 10, 1960
Last summer five brave mariners in five small sailing boats left Plymouth Harbor in England to race time, the elements and each other across the Atlantic. Despite fatigue, fog and the father and mother of all storms, the winner, Francis Chichester, kept this account of his voyage, which for freshness and immediacy belongs with the enduring literature of the sea
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October 10, 1960

Racing Alone

Last summer five brave mariners in five small sailing boats left Plymouth Harbor in England to race time, the elements and each other across the Atlantic. Despite fatigue, fog and the father and mother of all storms, the winner, Francis Chichester, kept this account of his voyage, which for freshness and immediacy belongs with the enduring literature of the sea

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SATURDAY, JULY 2, 1100. Thick fog, visibility 75 yards, heavy rain showers, gray, gray, gray. Shall I ever arrive, tacking eternally like this? Oh, for a week's wind free enough to sail full and bye! It would put me right into New York, just seven days of it.

SUNDAY, JULY 3, 0915. Gosh, it's cold. I must pop out to see if there is any ice about....

Well, I couldn't see any if there was, because of the fog. What a place! We are over Flemish Cap, an outlying shoal east of the Grand Banks. This morning my fingers went all sodden white with the water, and it was difficult to unscrew the shackles because they were numb with cold. And this is midsummer!

MONDAY, JULY 4, 2030. Well, if you come around the Grand Banks in a year's time you may find me still here, tacking against light head winds.

I felt I could not leave the Grand Banks (but shall I ever leave them?) without fishing. I used a feather lure and a spinner without success. During dinner I heard a sort of deep sigh, and came on deck for a look-see. Fifteen feet away four whales dived beneath the surface. I could have prodded one with a boat hook.

I saw that there was a whole school about, perhaps a hundred of them. They looked awfully black and sleek and powerful. My first thought was: "Are you friendly?" I concluded that their presence was a broad hint that the fishing around there was exclusively theirs, and hauled in my fishing tackle. Almost all the whales in the pack came up in turn to investigate Gipsy Moth. Then after 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour, as if at a signal, they all dived together and vanished.

MISTAKES AND MISGIVINGS

WEDNESDAY, JULY 6, 0930. A feeling of urgency, of apprehension, woke me at about 9:30 last night. It was wild on deck, with water sloshing in the cockpit. I got up to the mast, clipped my life belt to a halyard and wrestled with the mainsail, grabbing handfuls of it in one hand. The wind, blowing gale force, bound the sail against anything it touched. It was hard pulling to get it down. The bow lifted and smacked down 10 feet, dashing water over my back.

Flashes of lightning shone in the fog. There was no sound of thunder above the thunderclap of the sail as it flogged in the wind. The ship lurched, pitched, rolled, trying every trick to throw me from my hold. The rain was a deluge. When I stood on top of the dinghy to gather the sail to the boom, the seething white water from the ship's bow waves rushed past at terrific speed. It was exhilarating, hanging on, doing the job, while tearing through the darkness with nothing ahead.

THURSDAY, JULY 7. At 2005 I crossed the meridian of Cape Spear, the easternmost point of North America, 26 days, 12 hours and 35 minutes after leaving Plymouth Hoe. Distance: 2,000 miles to the mile. Average speed: 75 miles per day. I feel this calls for a big celebration. I shall have to open a tin of sardines.

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