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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.

November 6,7,8

November 6

Just more of the same on starboard tack. 90 to 110 wind angle 1 reef in the main yankee 2 and staysail. 105 degree course across the waves toward Cape Town. The yachts to our South have made ground on us overnight .2nd to 7th place is going to be close. We go to shake a reef out at watch end but breeze comes back.

November 7

Still on starboard tack , close reaching, in morning under 1 reef +yankee 2 and staysail .First half hour at helmboat feels underpowered and now wind is 14 knots. I ask Su to get Jorge’s attention by knocking on Nav station window and at that point Jorge’s head is already popping up. I say to him ‘ shaky shaky time ‘ and he agrees and I instruct the cockpit to get ready to shake out the reef.
For those non sailors there is a lot to do. Explain reef.
I direct the procedure from the helm though Jorge is in the cockpit.
After this the shake out almost seems like an error as the wind comes back up to over 20 knots buy it son dies down again .
Manage to get for of us through the helm and the girls in particular steer a pretty straight course including Rachel nursing a broken rib. We gain a little back on Seattle .We go into stealth ay 1200. Seems we are now racing perhaps for 4th to 8th.The persistent Atlantic swell is still with us. Should be in Cape Town in 2 days but know we are likely to get hit soon from head with 40 knots before we finish .
Evening watch very difficult with breeze shifting and going from 13 knots and suddenly gusting to 25. Put reef in main and boat a little easier to control .
November 8

daylight watch 0800 rather lighter winds but some squalls coming the near distance.the weather is nice for a change with the sun shining .single layers foulie bottoms and the Sanya jacket and Crocs and socks. target is to keep the yacht moving at 50 to 55 degree wind angle .We’re now under full main yankee 2 and staysail and 11 knots of wind our initial course is somewhere near the 065 bearing to Cape Town. The first clouds knock us down to a course of 25 to 30 degrees and is enough for to release some pressure from the main by easing down the traveller but we are soon lifted back on course around the back of it. Half way through our watch the wind is enough that we put the first reef in . The evolution goes very smoothly. Jorge takes the wheel while we go past an approaching ship. I take the wheel for the last part of the shift and she is beautifully balanced in the now 18 to 25 knot breeze .We sail a relatively close hauled course pushing us higher than the waypoint at a speed of 9 to 11knots. Better to be somewhere to windward when the Mayhem hits tonight.The wind continues to increase and we go forward and drop the Yankee . Having had everything dry I now get soaked at the pulpit.
During the support watch we go up assist with putting in the second reef as the wind builds.
As I lie on my bunk in my now off time the boat is shuddering and sails flapping with
the sound of the 3rd reef in. Guess the wind has now hit 35 to 40 knots
That being completed the boat is now a lot calmer. As we approach the finish we fight out with 3 other yachts for 5 to 8 place
Seattle is ahead by near 20 miles but to leeward Korea behind by 2 but to windward Bermuda well behind a and to leeward
going to be an interesting watch tonight

approaching squall

5th November 70ft Sailboard

Well this IS what I came for. Woke to the sounds of the yacht surfing down waves. Up on deck the cloud was breaking up and there is lots of blue sky.The wind is 25 to 30 knots . The task is to steer a 120 to 130 degree wind angle and go fast. There is a mixed sea state with the main swell of 2 to 4 metres and building , across us and a left over swell travelling in the same direction as our course. Take the helm and first surf down a wave is at 16 knots . It’s easy to get lost however in surfing the wave and bear away too much and lose speed , better to stay up on the power and get the trough of the next wave. The yacht is behaving super nice with one reef in the main and the yankee 2 and not tending to round up. It’s all fun and fast with occasional breaking waves on the stern quarter and every so often a wave dowsing the whole crew. We cycle all our current helms , me , Su and Ming through the wheel and all do a good job. Jorge appears from the companionway smiling. Our Nav computer had been out of action for 24 hours so we have no access to the positions of the other yachts .We are nearing the end of the “Ocean Sprint ” (335 miles). Jorge has spoken to the AQP on Halong Bay and has information. We are now the most Easterly yacht (but also most North )apart from Qingdao . Bermuda behind us may be travelling faster. It seems we are in a good position overall. All will be revealed as we close on the South African coast .

3 November Atlantic Storm

So by storm I refer to the wind strength. Force 11 on the Beaufort scale is just below 64 knots at which Force 12 is a hurricane. This night we recorded peak gust of 62 knots. The amazing was how the yacht handled it. I reproduce my email to home which never got there as our system went down.

Hi all just weathering out another Atlantic storm .Was trying to send an email last night just in case! Wind was around 45 knots when I got to the helm last night After we’d run deep to get the staysail down I got back on course and boat was getting uncontrollable. First mate took helm but had to sail much
deeper than our set course . Soon after this we broached and the yacht sat nearly on her side for a long period of time before getting control. We then just ran nearly straight downwind till the squalls abated . Peak gusts were 60 knots. Peak speed 25.We had completely depowered the triple reefed main. All was a little bit scary in the dark. Took the wheel back for the last hour and it was then a bit of fun surfing down the waves at close to 20 knots.
We’re fastest so far in the sprint all but Qingdao look catchable overall. The 35 to 40 knots outside seems calm now .
Hope all is good at home. Just trying to stay safe . Cv29 is looking after us.
love Rick