At sea. Volvo Ocean Race: ABN AMRO ONE into the north easterly trade winds at 16 knots Print E-mail
Sunday, 09 April 2006
Mark "Crusty" Christensen:

Well it looks like we are out of the Doldrums and on our way in a building North Easterly trade wind. Pretty painless Doldrums compared with some I have been through. The lightest wind we saw was 6kts and only had to deal with one small cloud. The sea way was terrible, normally it is dead flat calm but not last night. Now as we are in the trades, the waves are more in line with the wind and boat speeds are building. 16kts for the last two hours, but with that comes the spray and the front hatch has been shut and the temperatures downstairs are soaring again. A couple of days ago it was impossible to sleep in the middle of the day downstairs, it is not quite there yet but as soon as we next need to turn the generator on it will be.

Things are looking great for ABN AMRO ONE, these are the conditions the boat excels in, 12-18kts of wind, 70-120 TWA. This is perhaps the first time in the race, apart from on the first leg that we have had these conditions for any extended period of time. Part of the reason for this is the ice waypoints, part because of a different time of year and course and probably most because after 3 and a 1/2 races, I am getting old, senile and begin most sentences with "on EF (or illbruck or Winston) I remember....." All three races I have done before this race seemed to have a large percentage of conditions like this, but this race has generally been more vmg (or upwind, downwind) and less reaching. In fact one of my shoreside roles is to evaluate the boat’s performance from a leg and update our polar curves from this.

During the Rio stopover Stan Honey and I went through all the legs again and updated the navigation polars. It was interesting to see then how little sailing we have done around 90 TWA. The other clue that we have done very little of this angle is that our genoa staysail looks brand new after sailing 2/3 of the way around the world, normally after a leg they are ready to be replaced.

What a leg so far, very up and down emotionally. Last out of the start, passing the fleet by out jigging them with some smart sail handling in a rain squall, losing first place by covering second and ignoring the routing software for the first time in the race, then watching the fleet sail away in 4-10kts of wind running - scary how much slower we were than the other boats - only to save the whole leg by deciding to play with a squall line and sailing along it all day(in more breeze) and getting back to third before it died out. I shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn't have caught the cloud and had still been 15 miles behind our sister ship when the trades filled in.

Things that have surprised me so far: We are much slower than the rest of the fleet downwind in under 10 kts(I thought we were similar or a little bit slower but it is more than I thought); How much some of the other boats are still behind in their sail programmes; Small staysails (or none), radically different sails from previous legs. Difficulty with handling them, I have seen a number of slow or bare-headed sail changes on other boats; How different clouds behave relative to your boat when the boat you are on is very fast relative to the wind speed. Last race if a squall line of rain got within a 100m of you, it would run over the top of the boat and the leave you becalmed for a period of time. On this leg we would happily sail in this zone and if the rain got too close just gybe and sail away for a few minutes before heading back for some more pre-rain squall breeze. Quite cool dicing with death so often; How little the eight fans, wind scoop on the front hatch etc. cool a black boat down downstairs; How quickly all bowel problems clear up after leaving Rio and then a new set re-occur with the freeze-dried food; That no matter how much time you spend cleaning, washing, applying cream, talcum powder or other remedies, heat and salt water related problems still occur. You should see the spots on my left leg.

Where is all the wildlife? Apart from a lost finch (Justin told me it was a finch?) that was trying to nest on our wand, only the two sea birds that happily troll our wake waiting for the flying fish to take off so they can gobble them up (are these the same two birds from the first leg?), The ever present flying fish that take flight out of the path of the boat and the odd one that can count some Japanese heritage and launches itself at the boat or crew.

How much water there is in the world!! When you sail over it endlessly, have it dump on you from a cloud for over an hour or have it come across the boat when you are sailing at more than 16 kts continuously, you realise just how much there is.

Finally, and there are some more but this will do, how much I miss my wife, Janelle, and two daughters, Maddy and Bronte when I am offshore and they are on. I wish I was with them even more when you hear how much fun the are having at "Mickey Mouse's House" in Orlando.

Any way life is all good aboard ABN AMRO ONE and should be that way for another 1700 miles of reaching at least.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 April 2006 )
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