At sea. Atlantic Rowing Challenge: Tropical Storm Zeta affects Row 4 Cancer Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 January 2006
Richard and Liz:

"As the more keenly eyed weather boffins amongst you will have appreciated by now, the latest abnormality to hit the mid Atlantic has been Tropical Storm Zeta! We have specifically tried not to bore you with details of our weather woes over the past week as you must have had enough of these the last time we were on sea anchor!

However, we have received a number of messages from people asking how this TS has affected us and our rowing. So we thought we would answer these by way of an update.

Interestingly we first encountered TS Zeta about a week ago, 2 days before it was officially recognised and named. The fleet was forecast to receive 25knots of wind from the NE, but we encountered 45knots gusting upwards for about 12 hours. The weather was extreme and we had torrential rain and wind! The blow did push us towards Antigua at a great rate so despite the shattered nerves it wasn't all bad news!

Since then we have basically been sitting frustratingly near to the eastern and south eastern parts of the storm encountering winds that whilst did not prevent us from rowing, certainly made life very difficult. We have basically had southerly and south easterly winds for almost a week. Unlike sailing, you can only row with a following wind and how far you can stray from having the wind directly behind you depends on the strength of the wind.

The wind has fluctuated over the past week between about 10 knots and 30 knots from the SSE. This of course is what has resulted in our movement northwards. However this we have also been battling with. Not only (as you will appreciate) is Antigua south of us, rather than north, but also the centre of Zeta has been located north of us. So for many days we were rowing across the wind and waves to try and make west but not go any further north. This made some painfully slow progress and explains why some boats have overtaken or caught up with us over the past few days. However to explain why we didn't want to move too far north we only have to look at fellow ocean rowing team 'Mayabrit' who 2 weeks ago were 200 miles ahead of us and storming away. They are the most northerly boat in the fleet and as such were caught by Zeta. They sat on sea anchor for what 5 days (?) being pushed back east as the fleet gradually caught and overtook them. You have to feel for Mayabrit as we wouldn't wish that fate on anyone, everyone out here is tying incredibly hard and to an extent the weather is all about the luck of the draw.

So the past week has been tough for us. We have not only moved slowly seeing the fleet catching us, but it has also been mentally and physically straining. Rowing in a cross sea is not recommended for anyone who wants to see in old age arthritis free and the constant sideways rocking motion is extremely hard to live with. Both of us have spent a lot of time on yachts at sea, but nothing prepares you for the motion of an ocean rowing boat in a cross sea!! On top of this has been the constant battle of not knowing what Zeta is doing, is it moving west, east, stationary, dissipating, strengthening.... Should we go north, south, stay where we are, put the anchor down or keep rowing knowing each mile towards Antigua is one we won't have to do again!?! It has been a real mental test and I have to be honest, there have been some moments where we have cracked.

We are hoping however that we are starting to see the "beginning of the end" as we now have (albeit pretty strong) easterlies (or just south of), which has allowed us to make more rapid progress in the right direction. This has made the past 24hrs quite hairy, but at least we really are shifting now!!

I hope this answers any questions that you may have had? Thank you so much again to everyone who has sent words of encouragement, we really appreciate them!

Love to all at home xxxx"

Row 4 Cancer is crewed by Richard Mayon-White and Liz O'Keeffe from Southampton UK Stephen Davies Event website
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 January 2006 )
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