Lorenzo to Doldrums

23rd September

So our days of wonderful downwind spinnaker sailing have come to an end .We went through the Verdes and this time did see land , the volcano in the distance. The barometer started dropping rapidly this afternoon . Our watch was an eventful one.

We noted a squall approaching which was the start of the low pressure system we were expecting. The system was big enough to be given a name, Lorenzo, and later in its existence it became the biggest Atlantic Hurricane ever recorded. We dropped the anti wrap net ,put up the staysail then dropped the spinnaker. Got the yankee 1 down below and brought up the yankee 3 and raised it . By that time the squall was on us and we were preparing to reef . I looked back from the mast where I was going assist Dennis with the reef and saw the boom in the water, Seamus with the wheel hard over and yacht not bearing away ,finally the main depowered and we bore away. We put in a double reef in the main which is always and interesting affair. Seamus signalled to us reef 1 , then reef 2 ,then reef 3 , then as we were pulling down to the 3rd reef the wind was already moderating and we put in reef 2. The wind settled after the squall to an easily manageable 20 to 25 knots ,the plan being to stick on a beam reach around the low which will likely send us to the virtual mark of the doldrums corridor. Another squall came through shortly after with the wind topping out at 47 knots . We simply bore away and CV29 looked after us.
I was on the helm for the last half hour of our watch and yacht was behaving beautifully . The next incident I think I can now discuss without causing offence. I gave a handover to the helmsan of the oncoming watch . Despite all of us doing all the same training we don’t necessarily all have the same knowhow or instinctive sailing ability . The task was simple ,to keep the apparent wind on the beam at 90 degrees to the boat. I guess as a dinghy sailor the knowledge of which way to turn is in the seat of my pants ,so to speak . Not so with the person I handed over too as I was about to rapidly find out . I handed over the helm with the yacht on course , went up the high side to go off watch (as the wind was not aft of the beam ) ,an error in retrospect ,and before I got to the cockpit to go down below found myself instinctively getting low on the deck as I felt the yacht rapidly veering into a crash gybe. The preventers held , the boom remained on the weather side . The yacht gybed back and was briefly on course before being rapidly hove to! A screaming skipper appeared in tbe companionway ! , with some rather curse instruction on what should next occur and we gybe back on course. Anyway down to bed CV29 is looking after us we just have to treat her right.

24th September

0400 watch and we’re 10 miles from the Doldrums Corridor . An area where there is often little wind and at some point we are allowed to motor for 6 degrees of latitude . Except we are on the edge of a tropical storm in 25 to 30 knots of wind and 2 to 3 metre waves. Our watch now is pretty much 4 hours of darkness as we move further west,and this night is really dark with 100 % cloud cover, though our last part of the watch we do get first light and now we can see what we’ve been crashing into all night.

We are asked to steer a 70 degree wind angle and later 60 degrees. Helming is very physical in these conditions and it is only Ollie and I that have the confidence at this point in time to do it so we swap every 30 minutes . We do our best and I think do a reasonable job though at times Cv29 has a mind of her own and is difficult to control. We are edging away from Qingdao and still in first . Despite the rough conditions it is relatively pleasant up on deck ,wet but warm. Downstairs with the hatches now closed in the middle of the tropics it is a living hell. I find a cooler spot up in the sail locker when things are quieter but every wave is felt up here . Looking forward to getting up on deck and getting back to the helm . So much for the Doldrums , but there is a long way to go

25th September

Woke up to the yacht now being under full main and yankee 2 but wind was rapidly dying away . Changed to the yankee 1 but wind was dropping further . Seumas notified race office of our intention to motor . 3 hours notice is given the we can motor 6 degrees of latitude in 60 hours. As we were ale ready so far into the corridor due to storm Lorenzo this was going take us almost out of the corridor. So it’s clothes washing showering fishing for a few days and any repairs that need doing. Good news is we’re 40 miles ahead of Qingdao. Some of the fleet are still stuck outside the corridor in the synoptic wasteland left behind the low.

26th September

Second day motoring in Doldrums Corridor.Had a rendezvous with Qingdao, to transfer 5 can of fuel to them via our dinghy.

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