Author : TJMoore
Simon checked his course and speed against his charts. He was still only marginally ahead of the others but he hoped to be well ahead at the far buoy. He checked his lines and glanced at his sail which was full and tight. He relaxed and went below to fix some chow.
Ten hours later Simon rechecked his position and that of the other yachts in the race. Something was wrong. His size to mass ratio should have given him the edge on the first leg, yet the others were catching up. He checked his tension again and confirmed his sail angle. Everything was perfect yet they continued to advance on his lead.
Another ten hours later and he was again pulling away but as soon as he got any distance on the rest of the ships he started to slow down. Curiouser and curiouser said Alice. For giggles he took an average Lumen Per Square Meter reading. It was gradually declining. Simon scratched his head and thought. He took another reading and saw it was lower than before. That was insane. The LPSM didn’t fall off that quickly at this rate of acceleration.
Suddenly he had an idea. He opened the meteoroid shield and actually looked back at the other ships and immediately understood the problem. The combined total of all the solar sails was blotting out the sun. As he pulled further away, more shadows fell on his own sail and reduced his thrust. Simon hauled in the starboard lines causing the hundred and fifth square kilometers of mylar sail to change its angle to the sun to about thirty degrees. His acceleration dropped even lower but he gradually started to slide off to the side of the pack. As soon as he was clear of the shadows of the other racers he let out his lines. His radar confirmed that he was now constantly increasing his lead.
Simon smiled and went down to catch some sleep. In another week he’s have to perform the tricky maneuver that would slingshot him around Mars, the first buoy, and begin the second leg of the race.