Alex Thomson: Out of the Doldrums
Alex Thomson: Out of the Doldrums
I finally exited the doldrums yesterday early afternoon and am now in the South Atlantic trade winds tight reaching in 12-15 knots of wind and will have similar conditions for at least the next few days. It is a relief to have some stability after the first 10 days of the race but also after the doldrums, which have left me feeling like I went 12 rounds with Wladimir Klitschko. I entered the doldrums in the morning and much of that first day was very light and variable winds, I had caught up to PRB so I had a boat visually to race which was motivating. We played snakes and ladders for much of the day and sometimes he was as close as a mile ahead. Then the evening came with big black clouds and he disappeared into one and was gone.
The day time was tough physically because of all the sail and course changes, it was impossible to sleep without heading in completely the wrong direction. The night was much tougher, rain clouds bringing gusts to 40 knots and afterwards virtually no wind, wind completely from behind and then up forwards, never staying the same for more than 10 minutes making sleep again impossible. Being set for light winds with a code 0 set and then getting 40 knots of wind is terrifying as you hardly have the strength to roll it away and if it tears or breaks during the roll you know you will lose a lot of miles and expend all your energy.
As you get further south you start to get the southerly swell from the trade winds which we were heading straight into. That’s ok at 12-14 knots of boat speed but at one point I saw the boat speed at 28 knots as we were hit by another huge squall and the boat starts hitting the waves hard. Time to try and slow down but even that is hard as in the black night it is impossible to predict the next wind speed and direction. To top it all it rained like a monsoon for most of the night.
All that apart I obviously did an ok job as when day light came I was alongside the leading group. At one point the rankings had me in 3rd place so despite not having slept for 36 hours I felt pretty good about myself. A couple of times the wind direction changed to the south or south east and I thought I am out of this hell hole only to be swallowed again by the clouds!
Yesterday afternoon was about the tidy up and then rest and recovery, nutrition and hydration. I still feel beat up and it will take a few days to recover but I hope life will be easier for a few days!
Although I caught up to the new boats ahead the same generation boats behind me have caught up too. A few days ago I was 250 miles ahead, now only 110 miles and they are positioned slightly west of me which may or may not help them. It is going to take 10 days or so to get to the southern ocean and the route to the south is extremely important. Sometimes the fastest route is to head more south east away from where you want to go to get stronger wind that can propel you round the outside of everyone. Trouble is a forecast that far in advance is unreliable so for now my strategy is to get south as quickly as I can.
As soon as I stop typing I have to repair the hydrogenerator brackets and get the hydro back in the water. Apart from not having enough fuel to finish the race charging the batteries with the main engine heats up an already unbearable living space down below!”