Ocean Drag Race

Boat speed contest as Volvo Ocean Race boats head for Barbuda

Wednesday March 20th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic

Well Done SEB - Roger Nilson reports from Amer Sports One

With about 2100nm to Miami we are locked into the northeast trades and the sailing has become a bit boring.

Often your best job is just sitting on the rail to improve speed. Not so much to do for navigators and tacticians except trying to optimize the approach to Barbuda. Most programs indicate a big right shift and slackening of the wind just before Barbuda, the most north-easterly island in the West Indies. If the programs are persistent, the fleet wants to approach a bit from the south in order to get a fast wind-angle into Barbuda, which has to be left to port.

The rest is now a real 'drag race' where all boats are comparing speed, as the breeze is very similar all over the fleet. A good sked and you feel great about your possibilities to advance in the fleet. A bad sked and you look everywhere to improve boat speed. Which helmsmen should steer, how to trim, how hard to press the boat and which sail takes you in the direction you want to go.

We are not living in much hope of passing the three leaders before Miami but certainly will work hard on passing SEB and keep the three others behind.

Actually we lost contact with the three leaders already half way up the east coast of Brazil. First djuice had to face being passed close to leeward by illbruck, ASSA ABLOY and Tyco. Then we passed djuice and were just two miles behind the leading group. It was evening and we were suddenly swallowed by a cloud and lost a couple of miles. From there on the rich have become richer. illbruck, ASSA ABLOY and Tyco have pulled the rubber-band a long way and it is not likely we will be pulled back into them.

Perhaps a bit at Barbuda if the programs are right. News Corp made a brave move going close to east coast of Brazil, which worked out fine till she changed side and went north after rounding the northeast corner of Brazil. There she got damaged badly by the Doldrums and SEB made the second brave move of this leg by keeping left after turning around the northeast corner of Brazil. She anticipated the bad Doldrums we and the others got and stayed in better winds and better current southwest of the fleet. Well done SEB.

As often in this race, we have two races within the fleet. The A-group and the B-group. We concentrate totally on winning the B-group race and it will take a big wind stop up front to catch the A-group.

Life on board is disturbed by the heat and humidity. I have found being less hot sleeping straight on the bottom of the hull rather then in a bunk. Actually our aft bunk is made for 1,5 persons but we have to sleep two. Easy to get your legs tangled up we the other person’s legs. Does not help to create peaceful sleeping in this uncomfortable sauna conditions.

The only fan onboard, in the navstation, is giving some relief, as the hatches have to stay closed, to avoid trade wind waves jumping into the boat.

Nothing is broken on board, as there have not been any strong winds whatsoever. So far also our bodies are healthy except from the odd fungus rash in sensitive places.

Looks like we will be finished by the previous set ETA, the 27th. Till then the fight will go on and who knows, perhaps we will see some tight duels as late as crossing the Gulf Stream between Bahamas and Florida.

Yours Roger [Nilson]

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