last bit of motoring corridor ,have UNICEF off our starboard quarter the whole watch and when reach our start line they cross it just ahead .Punta still motoring 17 miles astern don’t know where they start sailing.Need to maintain 6 1/2 knots to stay ahead , difficult in the light airs.
By the time we are on our next watch , the sunset watch ,0800 to 1200 UTC , we have barely sailed a few miles after stopping motoring.There is very little breeze ,less than 4 knots and within the hour it drops away to less than 1 knot and we are making a boat of 0.7 and sail less than 3 miles.We get excited about an approaching squall but it passes around us.Finally a black cloud descends and brings a brief tropical shower and 15 knots of wind. Finally we are making forward progress at 9 to 10 knots.The rain subsides but fortunately the wind continues .We make ground on UNICEF,who seem to be heading west to join us , and are now further North. More importantly we are travelling at greater than the average allowed motoring speed in the corridor so we are staying ahead of the boats still motoring behind us. Hopefully for a little while at least we have left the light tropical airs behind us.
So towards the end of the doldrums corridor it ends up almost like a race restart.Halong bay has timed things well and has got away.Passing New Ireland on one side and Buka the other we catch Punta Qingdao Zhuhai ,Unicef catches, WTC and Korea still motoring come past us all. It is all slow going in the light airs .In to that evening the light airs are interrupted by thunderstorms. The wind shifts significantly west. We had caught Korea and as one squall approached we decided to drop our spinnaker. We carry full main and staysail through the storms and later hoisting the yankee. Up on deck the light show is spectacular and the rain a comfort relief from the heat. Next morning we get nice breeze out of the North West and track along between 7.5 to 9 knots. We get significantly further north than the rest of the fleet having now put Korea 20 miles behind us. Our evening watch is a descent back into light airs with the windseeker up.We expect light air till we get to the easterly trades .Hopefully if we stay north of everyone we’ll get them first.
Started the morning just in the corridor ,code 1 spinnaker up ,light winds again. Yachts to thre west ,Korea WTC Punta Seattle Unicef had pulled ahead of us overnight .We finally started to make ground on all passing all but Punta and Unicef..The trick is to work out when to stop sailing.Do you motor straight away when your speed drops or do you persist with some sailing below the motoring speed of 6.6 knots, given that the corridor is 8 degrees of latitude long and you motor for 4 degrees. Motor early and risk being in light wind later or sail and then hopefully motor right to the end of the corridor.We fall into a wind hole of Rousell island ,on the Eastern end of mainland PNG.We persist and get a favourable current and breeze that gives us a speed anywhere from 4.5 to 8.5. And we start making gains on everyone. We go back past Seattle and leave them well behind. It is Australia day and it is 1 days after Chinese New year. My mum had sent a New Year cake that she posted to Airlie. So we cut the cake up on deck and celebrate both.It brings almost the whole crew to the deck at the same time. On my sleep time after watch the heat and humidity is pretty awfull downstairs. I find a shaded nook on deck beneath the dropped staysail to sleep. I get woken up with any sail change including at one point going on thebowsprit to change a spinnaker tack ,then go back to my nook to sleep. Dare to Lead right at the back of the fleet start motoring almost at the corridor start. They come up to us and hand us over a new pump for our generator.At least now we will have enough water and won’t have to run the motor to charge the house batteries which would use more fuel than the generator. We persist into the night still sailing under the code 1 in the light airs .Helming is tricky to keep the boat moving and not collapse the kite .Finally near midnight ,when nearly becalmed we send an email to race office with our intention to motor ,for which you need to give 3 hours notice. Straight after we get a squall which pushes our boat speed to a steady 9 and a half knots ,though I have to bear away from a course of 345 to 50 degrees.The rain i the squall is typical for the tropics heavy and stinging, hurting my eyes and fogging my glasses making the instruments hard to see. This followed by the wind going ahead and dropping to 1 knot. It then picks up again and we are doing 11 knots back at 310 degrees. It all peters away but at least has given us a boost before we drop the kite and start motoring. And this morning the bimini is over the boom keeping us cool. The guitar comes out and I accompany Jorge’s sultry low pitched voice , and occasionally the crew joins the chorus.
21 to 23 Jan we continue in the light winds heat and humidity trying to get the best angle on any cloud that appears we are east of most of the fleet which is a good thing scheds say were in 7th place sailing all day with most of the fleet visible if wind comes from where it’s meant to will be good 0800 to 1200 shift 23/1 the sunset shift just a beautiful evening on deck breeze from 11 to 14 knots yacht performing nicely with 7 to 8.5 knots speed at close to 100% vmg at one stage all but 3 of the crew on deck just enjoying the evening ,such a contrast to the cold of the Southern Ocean, much nicer on deck than in the sauna down below now we are the most Easterly yacht so will just depend on how the wind fills in in the next 1 to 2 days
Initially made some gains closing gap between us and leaders ,and Still being the most Easterly yacht .Did get into an official 3rd spot. But then winds dropped overnight and the fleet to the west made up some ground. Now just heading to corridor in steady 6 to 8 knots.Wind coming round to 70 to 80 degree wind angle allows to set the windseeker .Hopefully our easterly position will see us get the best of the next shift and we will be hoisting a spinnaker.
18 to 21 Jan Prior to planned race start we loaded 50 15 litre cooler bottles of water onboard as the watermaker had not been repaired.On the Saturday morning it was announced that the new watermakers were arriving and start would be delayed until Monday. We still had a slipping of lines ceremony and did the parade of sail, and then did a refresher sail which very useful for the joining crew. Monday we then motored to hydrographer’s passage. Once outside the reef the breeze had dropped and the decision was there was not enough wind to start the race.The fleet had gathered in a circle and almost all the fleet went in for a swim. We then motored overnight and gathered the next morning for race start. This would be a Le Mans start a clipper invention. All boats line up ,with mainsail only up ,motoring at a set speed and course and with 4 minutes to go all crew are behind forward pedestal grinder. At 1 min to go the engine is cut. On start crew go forward and hoist headsails. We had drawn the windward position and our start went well. Light winds were the order of the day. Qingdao eventually crossed ahead ,but after a couple of tacks we were back ahead of both them and Punta.As for Korea on the other side of the course, time will tell.