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"Right on 280 and holding. Locked in...."
Then, at last, we were approaching the end. "Now's when it starts getting exciting," Bruning said, chewing a Gelusil. "The first day's a bore. The last day hums."
Six days before, 14 boats had left Biloxi. Since then, apart from an occasional sighting, the only communication between them had been over the radio. According to the rules of the Regata al Sol, there were no restrictions on the use of radios except that no boat could receive coded weather or "other pertinent information" that was not available to the rest of the fleet. David Hatcher had talked to other skippers from time to time, but because skippers like to guard their positions, no one could tell for sure whether the information he was getting was on the level. A skipper handles his whereabouts the same way a quarterback handles a football: deception is part of the game.
The general feeling on Nimbus was that she was the lead boat. The only other boat that seemed to pose a real threat was the Temptress, a Columbia-50, but since she owed the Nimbus time, each passing hour made her less of a threat.
The navigators placed Isla Mujeres 5� off the starboard bow. If the wind held up, we should be there by midnight. Spirits ran high. Audrey Hatcher threw caution overboard and dropped all the ice in the daily pitcher of lemonade. Bruning took a shower with a bucket of saltwater and suggested everyone else do the same. "Otherwise, the Zazil-Ha will shut the door in our faces."
About this time a blue sail was sighted on the horizon. When it got near enough to focus on, we saw it belonged to Temptress, and she was closing fast.
"That's all right," David Hatcher said. "We've still got her beat. She'll never make up the time she owes us."
Her course puzzled him, however. If we were right and Isla Mujeres was straight ahead, why was the Temptress closing on us at right angles? She appeared to be running away from the island, not toward it. Someone then mentioned a disturbing fact. Aboard the Temptress was the skipper of the boat that had won last year's Regata al Sol, a Mexican born in Yucatan. And this was the Yucatan Channel! Was it possible he knew something about these waters and their strong tricky currents that no one else knew?
"That's possible," David Hatcher said. "It's also possible"—and here he looked at the navigators—"that somebody's goofed and we're headed straight for Panama."
No, that was not possible, the navigators insisted. Isla Mujeres was right where they said it was. They showed him figures to prove it. They had even gotten a radio fix.