Extract from the novel WINDWARD LEGS. Copyright Dave Moores and Middleroad Publishers.
A flick of lightning lanced down in the middle distance. Oh, here we go, Alice said to herself. She felt a clutch in her stomach. No use wishing they were safely tied to the dock. This thing was coming for them and would arrive long before they could make harbour.
“You all saw that, right?” she said. “We’re only a couple of minutes from the windward mark and then we’ll be heading back towards the shore anyway. I suggest we keep racing, but if anyone wants to turn around right now, just say, and we will. No discussion.” So strongly did she believe this that she didn’t even consider asking Mr O.
They turned to him anyway. He stared right back.
“Your skipper asked you a question, why are you looking at me?”
Thanks Mr O, she thought, much appreciated.
“I’m good,” said Marcus.
“I’m good,” said Derek.
“Go for it, we’re good here,” called Joss, from the rail. Teenagers: immortal of course.
She had one last question. “If it gets crazy, which sail do we drop first on these boats?”
“The jib for sure.” answered Mr O, as they arrived at the windward mark.
Once around it, Jackdaw was sailing downwind with the mainsail out to one side as far as it would go, the wind pushing them from behind.
The storm swept in fast, really fast. Spooky-looking skeins of pale cloud rolled in beneath the darkening overcast. A draft of chilled air felt like somebody opening a freezer door. Lightning strobed in the clouds, making deep booms Alice could feel in her chest. So far the wind was manageable, gusts showing up to thirty knots on the display. You’d have to be crazy to even think about hoisting the spinnaker.
Back at the mark, Tomahawk rounded with Fang right behind. Tomahawk was trying to reef his mainsail, a tough go with the boom way out to the side. The crew were screaming at each other and the sail flapped like crazy. Then the wind exploded it with a crack like gunfire, leaving shards of sailcloth fluttering from the mast.
“He should’a done it when we did, you were right!” shouted Derek over the roaring wind and rush of water past the hull.
The tiller was kicking and pulling in Alice’s hand as Jackdaw careered along, rolling from side to side and barely under control. It was hard work, like driving a car without power steering.
“Chas, can you come down?” she called, “I need a hand on the helm here.” She wasn’t sure why she’d chosen him, could be the smiley face and the mop of straw-coloured curls. It was tight quarters in her little steerer’s cockpit and he had to squeeze in next to her. She noticed the heft and warmth of his hard young man’s body.
“Follow my movements, okay?” He gave a nod and a thumbs up and in seconds they had it together. They were side-by-side, he had an arm around her waist to brace them, and the other hand on the tiller next to hers. They weren’t fighting each other for control and it felt as if he knew her movements before she made them. She turned to gaze into his earnest young face. “You’ve sailed with a tiller before, right? I can tell.”
“A few times, yeh.”
Good boy, more than a few, she suspected.
READ MORE OF THIS IN Dave Moores’ BOOK WINDWARD LEGS