My wife and I recently had dinner with some sailing friends who own a Feeling 36, made by Kirie in France. A really beautiful boat that they cruise out of New Jersey. They used to race her and the skipper, Ted, is a veteran of several Round The Island races (The Long one next to the Big Apple that is not the small one southwest of Pompey). It's a 2-3 day race involving offshore racing in the Atlantic, some tricky currents and long reach back down Long Island Sound (here is a map). Over dinner, he told us a great story from one of his Round the Island adventures.
For this race, he had lined up a 8 other crew including 4-5 guys who could helm. Unfortunately 2 of the more experienced crew were no-shows so they started the race with skipper + 6. The initial sailing down the south side of LI was rough going and the 2 other guys who could helm got very seasick so it was left to Ted to stay permanently at the helm.
The wind died to 2-3 knots toward the end of day 1and the whole fleet slowed to a crawl. Ted being a canny man of the salt figured that he could do some catching up on the bigger boats in the light airs. The crafty bugger put his spinnaker out on the leeward side making it into a giant Genoa. It worked a charm and by the time they had reached the tip of Long Island, they had overhauled most of the fleet. They made "Plum Gut" (the short channel between the North Fork and Plum Island) in time to catch the height of a 6 kt current that took them and 4 other boats into Long island Sound.
The winds were still very very light. In fact so light, that at one point going through Plum Gut, Ted's boat was going sideways at the same speed as the other 4 boats were going forward. The current was actually the only thing keeping the boat moving and the sails full.
As they turned West into the Sound, fog set in. Great! By this time, Ted has been at the helm for 36 hours and the race was fast losing its allure. Through the fog, Ted could make out another boat on an opposing tack coming towards them. As Ted was on a starboard tack he called rights but the guy didn't let off and came slowly across him and then disappeared into the fog. Ted had had enough and told one of the other guys to take the helm for a couple of hours while he got some sleep.
About an hour and half later, one of the crew shook him awake with a look of panic on his face. According to the depth-meter they were shoaling fast. This made no sense. Ted had set them on a course up the middle of the Sound in 300 ft of water. It was still foggy so he couldn't tell by looking around what was going on but a quick check of the GPS showed them to be 10 miles East of the position they had been when he went to sleep and we're about to run aground. East?!! What the ... They were supposed to be about 20 miles west of their current position.
It suddenly all dawned on Ted. As they entered the sound, the current was running 6kts east. With almost no wind, they had been going backwards and East for two hours. Ted realized that the boat that had crossed his bow without giving way was in fact anchored. They had drifted backward behind him but he couldn't tell in the fog.
They bit the bullet, turned on the engine and quit the race.
The moral of the story is get some sleep and make the puking buggers tough it out at the helm earlier.