It was a slow start, as both teams had to reel in their anchors and catch the wind at the best angle, but soon the two pretty yachts were sailing merrily down the lake in company with cheers from the onlookers.
The wind was against them down the lake, and the more experienced half-French sisters soon had a good lead. But it was quite a long way, and they began to be careless in their steering, and Kristy caught up with Ophélie, though she did not pass her.
At Scholastika they duly took on board their two passengers each, Lindy and Serena for Ophélie and Sir Humphrey and Nathaniel for Kristy. Ultimately, Kristy had the more difficult challenge. Serena behaved herself admirably throughout the whole proceedings, whereas Nat happened to be constantly in the way underfoot, and always wanted to help where he would have done no good. Soon Dan completely lost his patience with his brother.
“Look, Nat, you’re a kid and a passenger, and I’m captain on this ship. And if you don’t sit quietly and behave yourself for the rest of this trip I personally will throw you overboard, and be glad of it, too!”
Nat gurgled. What a great adventure to be shouted at by his brother, and perhaps to be thrown overboard!
Daniel gritted his teeth and scooped up his brother, bundling him quickly into the cabin. Thirty seconds later, muffled screams from inside the locked cabin rippled the water around about. After an exasperating five minutes during which everything on the boat seemed to go wrong, the noise stopped, and Blaise saw through the darkened window that her brother was asleep. Sir Humphrey was permitted to stay on deck.
Presently Delia turned from her position at the rudder, where she liked to sit and watch and be.
“The wind’s changed,” she said. “I’m turning straight for Pertisau. The wind is just right. If we’re quick the Ophélie won’t have noticed till we’ve passed her, and then it’ll be too late to build up her speed. Full steam ahead, Captain!”
She shifted the rudder, and Aoife and Dan held the ropes, or sheets, as sailors like to call them. Blaise, who was at the bow and hadn’t been expecting the turn, gave a jerk before recovering herself.
Kristy lurched into action, and had gained a good speed in seconds. Soon she was sailing quicker than any of the Thimbles had sailed her before, and it was with a wonderful feeling that they cruised the lake. Everything passed as a kind of quick, deft dream. Sailing almost non-stop for several days had made them aware of everything that was going on onboard deck, and it all came together like a jigsaw, easy and ready-cut.
Captain Élodie of Ophélie, satisfied with the lead she had gained while everyone was fussing with Nathaniel, never looked back. Basilie at the rudder had passed into a dream, dabbling here and there and paying no attention to any wind changes, so she never noticed Kristy until the sleek white yacht was passing them with such ease that she could only stare and blink.
“Ahoy, Ophélie! Perfect day to sit and daydream in a yacht race, isn’t it?” hollered naughty Blaise, her high red ponytail bouncing mischievously.
Basilie just gaped, and made no attempt to alter the position of her rudder till Élodie, who had been holding the ropes and a conversation with Lindy and Serena at the same time, looked up to the vision of Kristy racing along in front and neither of her sisters doing anything about it.
“Basilie! Didn’t you see them?” she cried. Then, as Basilie continued to gawk, she said more to herself than to anyone else, “Well don’t just sit there! Get on with it! There’s no time to lose. You should have noticed the wind changing.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” said Basilie in a dazed voice, moving her rudder quickly to its rightful angle of maximum velocity.