It’s mid-afternoon, two days after launch. I am sat Zest’s saloon, trying to contain my anger as I compose an email to the company that appears to have lost the EPIRB I sent to them for battery replacement seven weeks ago. I hear a loud thud on the pontoon and then Rupert’s voice, calmly asking if I wouldn’t mind bringing out some paper towel, ‘the whole roll please’. I arrive on deck to see Rupert hunched over, hand over his bleeding nose. While using wire cutters to cut a new forestay to length, he has managed to launch himself face-first into the pontoon.
A few guys who are working on other boats on the pontoon have rushed over to help. One asks if I have a medical kit onboard. Do I ever! Oscar Mead has kindly lent me the kit he bought from Medical Services Offshore for his OSTAR four years ago. Trouble is, it’s massive, and I haven’t taken the time to fully familiarize myself with its contents yet. So I rifle through it, trying and failing to find the antiseptic wipes and steristrips, feeling increasingly frustrated at my ineptitude. We make do with a couple of steristrips, plus a large bandage, and decide it’s worth getting Rupert checked over at the hospital as he may need stitches.
At the hospital Rupert is taken through right away, and I sit in the waiting area reflecting on recent events. We are both exhausted, last night we were up until 2AM, assembling bits of the rig in our shipping container workshop as it blew a gale outside. Even if by some miracle all of the remaining equipment were to turn up from the suppliers with all of the bits present and decent documentation, we will still need to spend every available minute installing things. There will be minimal time to test things, and no time to recover from the exertion of the refit. Only a fool puts to sea exhausted. It’s time to stop this madness.
I am still waiting. This is taking longer than I expected and naturally I begin to worry. Has Rupert broken his nose? Is he being taken for a scan? How will I live with myself if this injury turns out to be serious? I am reminded of the sad story of Lizzie and Mike McMullen in the 1976 OSTAR. Lizzie electrocuted herself just days before the race, while helping Mike prepare his boat. Mike set out to race anyway, believing that it’s what Lizzie would have wanted. He was never seen again. I feel I am beginning to have an insight into the state of mind that can lead to a tragedy like this. I am choosing not to go there.
I step outside to take a call from the service manager responsible for the EPIRB fiasco. He finally admits that they have indeed lost my EPIRB, and apologetically offers to replace it with a newer model at no charge. We discuss the delivery options and timeline and I realize with great sadness that there is no hurry now. My 2013 OSTAR campaign is over.