HomeThe Ocean RaceIn their own words - 11th Hour Racing Team

In their own words – 11th Hour Racing Team

Simon Fisher and Amory Ross share their thoughts on a challenging weekend…


Simon Fisher:

I’ve been telling myself when I get a quiet moment I’ll write something down about the leg so far only to arrive at the end of each watch both busy and exhausted.

It’s a pattern that has repeated itself fairly consistently since we left Cabo Verde and battled our way south to the doldrums. Typically when you think you have arrived at the point of rest something transpires that means you either have to go back to the computer to look at the situation or back on deck to change sails, do a manoeuvre or stack the boat.

By the time I’ve arrived at my bunk each time I’ve been too tired to even reach down to my pocket to retrieve my earphones, not that I’ve needed music to help me to sleep. Every bit sleep has been welcomed but punctuated at least hourly by the steady flow of position reports and wind shifts.

That said though it has been fun playing the strategic game as we headed south thorough the trades, it has however felt a little more like snakes and – ladders and less like chess on occasions as gains are quickly won and lost. It now remains to be seen if the work in the trades is cancelled out by the randomness of the doldrums. It has been a unusually tricky doldrums to figure out, there is still no simple and obvious way through short of sailing all the way to the Brazilian coast so it’s going to be interesting to see how the next few days play out as we all aim our bow south and do our best to get through ahead of the next guy.

So far it has been good fun, an opportunity to study the clouds and follow your gut as opposed to having to think about how we mark our opposition. We are still headed downwind and the wind is almost 180 degrees out from the forecast but progress seems to be good for the time being!

I could just be happy not having to try and think while getting my brains shaken about through fast sailing. In recent days I’ve wondered if I should have been training by taking my computer with my into an industrial washing machine and putting it on spin cycle! Now however I’m enjoying a moment sat on the foredeck in relative calm feeling the wind across the deck having been able to leave the cockpit for pretty much the first time since leaving Alicante.

It’s starting to rain but I really don’t mind. It’s just nice to be outside and the presence of the cloud overhead means there wind pushing us along steadily to the south.

All is good on board as people finally get a chance to catch up on a little sleep and tackle the little jobs that have been outstanding for days. The frenetic pace has definitely slowed a little now that we are in the doldrums but as they say a change is as good as a rest so I think we’ll make the most of it.

Cheers,
Si Fi.

Just in from Amory Ross 1045 UTC Sunday:
The first signs began at 0400UTC, not long before sunrise. First a couple of bizarre, un-forecasted shifts: 20 degree lefties that weren’t supposed to be where they were. Then came the first clouds, and then the first rain. And with that, we said goodbye to the brief time in the NE tradewinds and hello to the Doldrums. Suddenly, sails were slatting and we were going upwind with downwind sails, then upwind with upwind sails, then not much of anywhere with it-didn’t-really-matter!

Without sunlight to see, or it’s heat to energize the cloud engine, nights can be a little catch as catch can. Si Fi didn’t get a lot of rest in the early hours this morning with a transition of his own from studying weather models and gribs to real-time satellite and infrared imagery. We are now in a part of the world where no weather-predicting algorithm works and the only consistency is it’s inconsistency. You have to use your own eyes (or the ones in space) to make the most of the ever changing landscape between us and the SE trades.

Unfortunately that landscape is growing, too. There is a ton of instability to the south, and those southern hemisphere tradewinds we so desperately seek are currently as diminished as the northern trades were when we left Cabo Verde. An ITCZ that a few days ago was looking relatively clean, with clear, narrow convergence lines and defined cloud structure, is now a total mess. This could be a long, difficult few days or more, and the leader could emerge not 60 miles ahead but 600. We’ll just have to do our best to keep getting south and find our own way through the maze. It will be a different path for us all and you can only hope ours is a little easier than the rest!

Amo

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