Velux 5 Oceans: Alex Thomson and HUGO BOSS sailing in a ridge of high pressure

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Apologies for not sending a report back yesterday but hopefully this will explain…Well it’s back on the highway for me but it was good to have a break from the action for 24 hours. The weather ahead shows that we should have a very fast passage at least to the Kerguelen Islands and from there it is not far to Fremantle. It is possible that we may only have two weeks left on the water so I will be making the most of it!

Yesterday, as you may have noticed, was not a good day for me, losing considerable miles to Mike Golding and allowing him to get south of me. After we passed through the front, Golding sailed a more southerly course, whereas I went more south-easterly. Unfortunately I ended up sailing into a ridge of high pressure which Mike managed to sail around.

The ridge did not look too bad on the grib (weather) files, but I should have realised there was bugger all wind in it.  The stupid thing was that my strategy was to stay to the south of Golding, as the winds would be stronger, and generally the south has the advantage. But I let him just sail past me, choosing the east instead. Mike would have always closed on me to some extent anyway, but I could have retained the advantage.

Note to self number one: watch out for ridges of high pressure between the systems.

Number two: When you make a game plan stick to it. 

The result will be that Golding could take second from me and so the hunter becomes the hunted. Sometimes its better that way but we will see.

Yesterday when there was no wind I caught up on some sleep. There was little I could do in 4 knots of wind (or less) and in a massive sea. When the breeze filled in, I could really have done with a masthead spinnaker but unfortunately the sock (condom like thing that allows me to handle the spinnaker alone) is damaged so could not fly which means I could not travel at my usual speeds.  The wind will build slowly today to 30+ knots, but Golding will get it first, if he has not got it already.

No problems with icebergs so far, although we did get a message from the race office giving us the possible position of a large 'Berg.  When I then plotted its position, I discovered it was right on my projected route! Great news - am thrilled to bits over that!

Everything else onboard seems ok although I had an interesting time when I had to modify the instrument system whilst ragging it, doing 30 knot surfs in 45 knots of wind, and the boat then falling over. I was getting a little shut eye at the time so awoke with a jolt and rushed up on deck to sort it out and get her sailing again. I thought at first that the problem was the anometer at the top of the mast, and as I was sailing on a wind angle that was why she wiped out…

Well, the next day in 25 knots of wind I was sitting at the chart table when I noticed the course the boat was sailing on change by 10 degrees.  I changed it back at the push of one button but it did it again and then again and again!  It was like there was someone in the cockpit pushing the +10 button all the time! Weird.  Sometimes it would change by 10 and other times by 60. We were crashing down waves at 20 knots and as you can imagine, I was very uncomfortable about it. Luckily for me it was always trying to make it go towards the wind, which meant the worst result would be that we slowed down and the sails would flap, or maybe tack if it was very severe. If it had been going the other way I would not have been as calm about it!  I sat at the nav station pushing the -10 button and decided to call 999 - B&G.  They quickly isolated the problem to be my port pilot display in the cockpit and had just told me what to do when the pilot got pissed off with me trading minus 10s with its +10s and did a -100.  I dropped the phone and legged it for the tiller, turning the pilot off in the process just averting a nasty crash gybe.  Then I had to stop the boat, find the tools, locate a control box under the cuddy and disconnect the green and white wire from the top pcb board.

Thankfully that did the trick so big thanks to B&G but it does mean that I only have one pilot display on deck.  They are situated next to each tiller so presently the working one is on the leeward side, the side closest to the water.  The slight issue is, if I have to take the tiller to stop a wipe out, I have to go down to the low side to turn the pilot off and then try and get back up to the high side to take the windward tiller as the leeward one is completely under water in a wipe out. Not ideal but I will just have to be more alert and make sure I have no wipeouts! All in a days work in the life of a solo ocean racer!!

It’s cold now, very cold, don't envy Bernard much at all without his thermals!
Time: 08:00 GMT
Next meal: Freeze-dried apple crumble
Tunes: Yesterday it should have been Slow Patrol!!
Alex Thomson HUGO BOSS

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 November 2006 )