Oh What a Night

8th November wind had built to 40 odd knots and we were heading into it. Got on deck and the comment from Will , offgoing watch leader was that the wind and sea seemed to be easing. Indeed when I got back to the helm, where Luke was still steering , the wind was around 35 knots. We were proceeding under a triple reefed main and staysail. I took over the helm at our 2000 time slot and was surprised how the boat felt underpowered.Keeping to the proposed close hauled course was initially tricky. Jorge came up on deck and we powered up the main and trimmed all the sheets in. Within 15 minutes the conditions went from strong to extreme with winds of 40 to 45 knots and sometimes stronger. The sea state just kept building with now occasional steep sets coming through. Helming was as much a matter off keeping one’s balance as it was steering the boat. I helmed for a bit over an hour and Jorge took over . He steered a course closer to the wind with a slightly lower boat speed the intention being to be as close to the waypoint to Cape Town so we wouldn’t have to tack. I watched with awe how straight a course he steered in the conditions. Jorge gave me the helm with an hour and a half of our watch to go. He watched me for about 10 minutes then said he’d give me a signal to luff up a bit to depower the rig so he could get some more tension on the staysail. All went Ok though being so close on the breeze had to do my darnest not to heave to. There was a little trepidation when he disappeared down below . There was little to look at to help steer just the white cloud of all the squalls ahead .Just keeping the boat close to the breeze and moving . An occasional glance at the dial on the wind instruments to make sure I hadn’t beared away too much. Pretty much became steering by the feel of the boat and up and over the set of steep breaking waves .In between the sets it was almost like the sea had been blown flat ( sort of ).
Every so often would be a wave with a breaking crest and I’d come straighter up the wave and bear away a little over the top and the blow out of the wave would send heavy thick spray all the way back into our faces at the helm. On occasions I’d be almost knocked off my feet when the boat crashed down the back of a wave . All in all it was awesome , exciting and at times a little scary.

Off watch as I tried to sleep the wind continued into the night for a couple of hours then started to abate. I awoke at dawn and looked outside and the sea was completely flat. Cape town was in sight with great views of table mountain. We had outpointed Seattle in the storm , outpaced Korea and Bermuda and were still in front of WTC who we could now see South of us. We were finishing 5th which was the best we could have dine from where we were . It took all day for those that were just behind us to finish.


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