Vendée Globe: crew news at sunday
Miranda Merron ‘A Frustrating Day Yesterday’
Miranda Merron’s message this morning, “A hugely frustrating day yesterday, unable to get the boat up to speed and not sure why. Then came squall tea-time where we (the boat and I) sat under heavy grey clouds, going nowhere very fast. After dark, once we had got going again, one of the autopilot gremlins got active, resulting in a bit of a mess. Once the boat was back on her feet, I sailed for a while with just the staysail to check over everything. Halvard must have been delighted by my late-night call…
On the positive side, it is the most beautiful moonlit night, almost bright enough to read by. It’s quite wet on deck, but it’s warm. The boat is pointing south. I have no idea what surprises are in store for today – there is always something – but I hope it’s an improvement on yesterday!”
Miranda/ Campagne de France
A Better Day on Medallia, Pip Hare Finding The Groove Again
Pip Hare writes from Medallia, “Tonight has been just perfect. Conditions have just slightly altered, enough to allow me to power Medallia up and get her drive back and after days of kicking and thrashing we got our act together and shot off through the night. I hardly needed to lift a finger, just set it up and the autopilot did the rest. What a relief to be moving again, I must admit I thought I was going to be stuck doing 12 knots for the rest of the planet. Just a change in wind direction of 10 degrees has taken the hand brake off and made all the difference.”
“To top it all we had a full moon early in the evening and this is something truly beautiful to experience at sea. When there is no other light pollution the moon is an incredible source of light. It lights the deck, the sails, it’s path across the sea glitters silver, everything is bathed it’s light, there are no need for torches, the world is lit up in monochrome. It was still cloudy so I could see few stars, the moon would disappear behind a cloud, not doing a very good job of hiding as it’s light burned through the cloud edges making them look like they were full of energy and about to explode, the world would go dark for a few minutes then burst into light again as the cloud moved on. As Medallia’s bow broke through the waves the water coming down the deck looked like molten silver. Just being on deck and experiencing these colours and sensations was a privilege.
I was on squall standby all evening, the radar checking ahead for any cloud action, but after a few hours dressed in my foul weather gear top, head torch on waiting for the action, my dozes became longer and it would appear I have been given the night off from any such activities. And so I sit while Medallia delivers me South and for the first time in days have a cup of tea, which I have realised I really missed.
We are just entering week 4 of the race, and this week I will leap off into the unknown, the point at which we turn left and make our way East and down into the Southern ocean is the point at which I will be entering the unknown. It’s new territory for me and I am not a little bit nervous for what lies ahead. The route down to the south is looking far from simple and every day I have watched with interest the tracks of the front of the fleet, still battling high pressure when they expected to be riding the lows. I’m pleased this night has been a good one, I feel more rested and yesterday spent quite a bit of time working on Medallia, making small jobs and checks, putting things in order, tying up loose ends so when we get the opportunity to ride south in a couple of days I will be able to give it my full attention.
Meanwhile I am thankful to be out here in this beautiful ocean. Sure we have to deal with some intense and difficult situations in the ocean but we also get to see nature in it’s most unadulterated form. The ocean is a stunningly beautiful place and I know I am lucky to see it in this way.”
Alexia Barrier ‘I’m in good shape’
One of the six women in this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe Alexia Barrier is sailing on the oldest of this race’s IMOCA monohulls, the former Penguin that Catherine Chabaud raced around the world in 2000. Since then, this Lombard design raced many more times around the globe. Alexia Barrier seems to be particularly happy on this mythical monohull!
“There’s quite a strong wind off Brazil and it’s still unstable in strength and direction, with squalls… Yesterday, it gave me the chance me to make good make up good ground with my new sails: I went quite fast! Then last night I wanted to take a reef out of the mainsail and it got stuck on the second. I have struggled but will wait for daylight to try again because I have already spent two hours on the end of the boom in the middle of the night, and it’s not very comfortable or to work on.
We have a magical moon, and that changes everything for sailing! It is especially great as I haven’t had my deck searchlight since the first week for all the manoeuvres and sail checks. I am trying to not think too far ahead to avoid getting stressed and am just doing things one after the other and so now I’m taking advantage of this pretty moon. Especially as the sea is much nicer than in the north of Brazil where we had very unpleasant cross seas. It is still quite unstable on the South with squalls…
I have Miranda (Merron) next to me and we’re keeping similar speeds although yesterday I was a bit faster. It’s really nice because it means you push the boat, it’s motivating to go faster. And behind me, I have Clément (Giraud) who is coming back and even further back, there is Ari (Huusela) and Sébastien (Destremau): we’re a small group at the back of the fleet and it’s rather reassuring for the moment when we reach the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Ocean. It’s not bad not to find that we are not alone in these far flung places!
My boat is the oldest in the fleet since it was built for Catherine Chabaud in 1998. I should be going 30% slower than the others, and in reality, I manage to hold on, and that’s pretty cool! It is a very physical monohull because there are still some old systems on board. I have total confidence in my boat even if it’s very wet because there’s no coach roof.
Yesterday I plugged the water drains in the cockpit to give myself a five minute swim! I took advantage of it and I’m in great shape after the Northern Hemisphere trade winds and the Doldrums. I’m finally managing to sleep well as I need to regain my strength to get around the St. Helena High, which is proving to be strategically complicated.
Sam Davies, “My first real Southern Ocean night “
My first real Southern Ocean night – in the conditions behind the front. Air temperature 10°C. I gybed just before Gough Island, in the clement zone close behind the front -25knt TWS – but rapidly the breeze built and the instability arrived. It felt a little bit close to Gough Island
for comfort so I furled the A7 in order to sail a clear enough course to pass safely to the South West of Gough.
My feeling was correct as rapidly I encountered the first big gust – 40 knots of wind. The sea state has built. When the breeze goes from 25 to 40 in the middle of the night for the first time, you get caught by a big surprise! So a little “wipe out” (thank goodness the A7 was already furled!) and Initiatives Coeur lay flat on her side with a nice cold wave breaking over her!
Ease all the sheets and back on our feet (that too is a scary manouver as you have to bear away but not too far so as to avoid a Chinese Gybe on the way out!)
So then the tricky bit is to find a trim and sail set-up for 22 to 42 knots of wind speed! That’s not easy, when you are sailing solo and you need to rest a little and not stay all night in the cockpit with the sheets in your (cold) hands! It’s a frustrating compromise with a lot of time “down speed” and other heart-palpitating moments of extreme acceleration down waves with a little too much wind.
Inevitably, I did a few more little wipeouts, but the night is over, nothing is broken and the average wind speed is starting to drop… later I should be able to deploy a bigger sail and get going a bit
faster. The albatrosses that are gliding around in my wake are having fun! In the meantime, I am going to put a thicker pair of socks on because my feet are blocks of ice!