Licking their wounds

Not even illbruck have come away unscathed

Friday February 8th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Watery ski slope - Paul Cayard reports from Amer Sports One

It is a sad day. The extreme ride is over. We currently have 20 knots [wind] from 245 and the forecast is similar all the way to Cape Horn, which we will round in 72 hours.

This morning was the best stint of the trip. Opposite to two nights ago which was horrifying. The difference: daylight and a few tricks that we figured out to keep the boat much more manageable.

Situation: Shortly after sunrise the wind accelerated from 25 knots to 40 knots, topping out at 47 knots of wind from 260. There was a well-formed sea from the three days of incessant 30+ knots of wind. The three of us drivers were in a two-hour on - four-hour off rotation. The intensity of the last three days for us three has taken its toll. All three of us have severe tendonitis. My grip strength in my left hand is 25% of what is normally is. My right hand is good.

I get up on deck and immediately I am pelted in the back by a wall of water. I work my way to the back and acclimate for three minutes. Then grab the wheel. The boat is very much under control and I am able to weave in and out of the 30-foot seas easily while we sit on 25-28 knots. My top speed was 32 knots for the two hours.

At one point, two or three waves had come together to make one huge wave. We got up on it and looked down a 120-foot runway that was about 30 degrees. Everyone's eyes were huge. It was a phenomenal wave that Dalton said was the biggest he had ever ridden. The water was coming down the deck so hard and deep when we would plow into the back of the waves that Bouwe Bekking was pushing against my back to hold me forward. It just went on and on. There were endless waves to surf, endless amounts of fun. It was simply the reason I came to do this leg.

Now the wind has died off, the situation is tame. No more beautiful icebergs to look at. I am sad. I am afraid the ride is over. Also our isolation, which adds to the adventure, is coming to a close. Communications have started working again. The Satcom-B has started working again, now that we are up to 58 south and the Mini M will work soon too.

I have not written a lot about the cold and the dampness, and discomforts because honestly, I am hardly aware of them. Of course, when I pay attention to it, I realize that I stink incredibly, and that I have had damp clothes on for a week, that my sleeping bag stinks and is wet, and that everyone else is about the same. But so what? That is nothing when compared to the unbelievable ride.

Well if the forecasts don't change, we will be cruising along in 20-25 knots of wind from the west generally all the way to the [Cape] Horn. Might get a bit of a blast from the north west that would give us some fire hosing for half a day. From there, the trek to Rio [de Janeiro] is about 2500 miles.

The forecast we have now call for some easy miles after the Horn, running and reaching in 15 to 20 knots [of wind] up to the Falklands. Sounds good but you can't bet your house on a forecast that is five days out. We can pray though. From there, typically there will be a fair amount of upwind, some of it very rough so sleeping and just getting around inside the boat will be tough. At that point I will be looking forward to getting there and having a well-deserved beer with some friends like Alan Adler and maybe Torben {Grael].

With the major risks over, I am happy to know that I will be with my family again soon. I did think a lot, and worried somewhat, about that. Only a fool would not. But I have a pretty good feel for the risks and I know how special the experience is, so I feel qualified to make that call. But it doesn't hurt to acknowledge that luck was again on my side.

Paul Cayard
Amer Sports One

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