Author: Rick

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.

Canaries to the Scoring Gate

19th September

Woke to another day of downwind sailing under spinnaker. Always wanted to go to the Canary Islands but we sailed past them during the night. We continue on down the African coast in company of Halong Bay ,Dare to lead and Qingdao. We gain on Halong Bay who gybe and cross 1.8 miles behind us. Despite this the sched puts them ahead of us ,and Punta in 1st who are a long way North west and are going through the Canaries rather than inside them.The conditions are pleasant with warmish but not hot temperatures and a 15 to 20 knot breeze.
Guess we will know all when we turn further west. The brownies we cooked on support are a hit at lunchtime
Wind freshening a little during the day ,just over 20 knots when we came on watch and I took the helm . Yacht beautifully balanced and relatively easy to steer a course . Keeping pace with Halong Bay who were alongside 1 mile to windward . Then we notice they wrap their kite and soon we are 8 miles in front . We have one round up where the kite wasn’t sheeted in quickly enough and the helm loses control and we dump the vang. Otherwise all our helms and kite trimmers do really well.
Interesting near broach at watch change just after the helm swap , watch change is always an interesting affair!
Scheds put us in 3rd but none is in front of us !

20th September Spinnaker Trouble

Awoke at 2 am to the sound of the code 2 about to come down , wind too strong so code 3 to go up. Can never get back to sleep when this occurs and the people who are going to organise breakfast are now busy with the spinnaker so I get up and start ‘running the edges’ so it can be re-packed and then fix some minor repairs that had been done previously. Hear the code 3 going up and shortly the call for for more hands on deck to get it down as it has torn . The damage is disastrous it has ripped from head to clew.
So no spinnaker for our watch which means2 to 3 knots slower. We were almost certainly leading the race when it happened .
Toward the end of our 0400 0800 watch we prepare the re-packed code 2 for launching and it is hoisted at watch change . Back racing .
Then we spend hours in the sail locker repairing the spinnaker which is likely to take 2 days.
Back on deck at 1600 the boat hums along under code 2 in 20 25 knots but we know it is on the limit.We’re now heading toward the scoring gate 500 miles away in the Atlantic.
We cover almost 50 miles on our watch and fortunately the wind has dropped a bit and we should be able to carry the code 2 overnight. We’re happy to get through our watch steering a good course and not breaking anything.

21st September

Nice watch this morning broad reaching on starboard gybe ,knocked late in the morning and gybed onto a very favourable port gybe. Wind decreased from 20 to 15 knots. Flying fish hitting the deck not infrequently. Scheds put us in 1st ahead of Qingdao by 15 to 20 miles . If we get a windshift back and gybe on it will be well clear .
Weather getting hotter ,and very light wind patch for the lunchtime watches.
Lost Ollie to the sail repair team and Seumas was assisting him our whole watch. Wind dropping a bit early in the watch increasing later on with 15 to 19 knots at end of shift , sailing under the code 2 just below the bearing to the scoring gate . 1800 sched puts us in first with Qingdao in stealth mode. Got all our watch through the helm Ivy , Carl , Michelle ,Dennis ,me and no spinnaker collapses or flogging but poor Ollie was sweating it out in the sail locker. And Mary had a shower on deck next to Ollie having a smoke . And 3 swallows landed on the outhaul

22nd September First to Scoring Gate

Similar sailing conditions ,downwind with code 2 ,bit of a sea state making steering difficult when wind is light and sky dark. Bit more breeze in the middle of shift then dropping off. Raise support for gybe at 0700 . Then on support get up twice for gybes . We are first through the scoring gate with Qingdao 13 miles behind now and we are heading for Cape Verde Islands
Weather really warming up but very pleasant on deck in the evening. Busy 4 to 8 watch this evening Code 3 repaired and Code 2 noted to have small holes . Code 2 dropped and Code 3 hoisted . Code 2 repaired and re-packed ,2 hours later code 3 down code 2 back up . Yacht feeling really balanced now and nice to steer ,lost a little to Qingdao ,hopefully can now hold them off an route through Verde Islands and on to the Doldrums corridor.

Trans Atlantic Race Start

15th September

After the usual parade of sail we started straight off Portimao in 10 to 15 knots of breeze from the sw.We had a small triangular course before heading across the Atlantic toward a course down the African coast . Good start on starboard tack but then crossed by several yachts on port. Single tack though onto layline, 4th round first mark ,round 2 buoys then set course for Uruguay . Initially on the wind but wind gradually going behind as evening comes on ,plesant temperatures and pleasant sailing by time we we’re off watch we are close reaching under white sails but spinnaker likely to be set overnight. Somewhere in the front 9 positions and whose tactics will be right are going to revealed in the morning.

16th September

Up at 0400 for our morning watch and it is light winds ,code 1 up ,wind gradually going north. Heading south for African coast ,couple of well timed gybes get a further 2 miles ahead of Punta during the watch.
At watch change I get hauled up the leech of the mainsail on a spinnaker halyard with a snatch block connecting me to the topping lift ,and repair the first batten pocket .
It’s warming up in the galley as we go south.
Had alittle visitor from land ,a little bird but unfortunately RIP.
Our evening watch again light winds from North code 1, sailing in company of Dare to Lead,Halong bay, Punta.
A bit of backgammon was played on deck ,
beautiful sunset nice evening .

17th September

Still light weather downwind sailing with the code 1 up. The scheds say we’re last but we know otherwise .A bit of excitement on our watch as pod of dolphins turned up this morning ,we then
then gybed as we came closer to land.
Very pleasant on the deck with in the 5-10 knot breeze but very hot below now we’ve baked cake.
Seem to get woken up each time a spinnaker comes down at least today it was 2 pm instead of 2 am .Found a small tear in code 1 which we repaired and replaced kite with code 2 for our evening watch.The breeze now steadier at 10 -12 knots and gives me a chance to get all our watch throughthe helm.
Now steady sailing under the code 2 with the wind likely to increase as we continue south along the African coast .
The 1800 positions come in and they say we jumped from last to second .Importantly we are the most Southerly yacht Seumas and Jorge planning is coming to fruition .

18th September

On watch 0400, midnight support crew had made bread and porridge with yoghurt(made on boat ) ,beautiful morning with 15 knots downwind under the code 2 , holding off Halong and gaining onDare to led and Qingdao. All our helms did well. Looks like we will continue on this gybe for some time,best part of 24 hours. Officially we are in second place but we are well east and south of Punta del Este whom the scheds say is first.
Downwind on starboard all day and when we come on watch at 1600. Pleasant breeze in warm conditions ,15 + knots wind drops then increases at end of our shift. Our helms do a great almost straight down the line to the planned waypoint. We make significant ground on Halong Bay with their lights now off our starboard quarter when we go off watch. The updates put us now in 1st position . There are only 5 yachts near the front of the race with some yachts now 18 hours behind. Punta are somewhere east and we think are going through the Canaries whereas us and the others are going between the Canaries and the African coast. When we gybe later tonight the positions will be better revealed. I hope the watch that have taken over can steer as straight or straighter than we. On another note we spotted the spume from a whale today among some circling birds though we did not see the whale