Two different tacticsMark Rudiger reports from on board Assa Abloy
We had just come out of one of the wildest snowstorms yet with the big masthead kite fully loaded and walls of water up each side. Josh [Alexander], one of the bowmen had to go out on the end of the pole while the boat was screaming along, to rig a quick release line. I gotta say, for the smallest guy on the boat, he has some of the biggest ******s!
Anyway, after things calmed down a little, adrenalin was running rampant, and Sidney [Gavignet] decided a snowball in the grinder's face would be amusing. Some of the other crew didn't agree, and next thing you knew we had a war on our hands. It was looking like the Kiwis weren't as adept at snowball manufacturing as some of the Northern Europeans, but got an A for effort.
I was tempted to try and even the battle up, but being the only adult on deck, (or on board for that matter), I decided to be referee. It all came quickly to an end however when we shot down a steep wave, and the wall of water washed all the snow away, leaving the ones wanting revenge looking under sail bags and in the foot of the main, for even a hint of ammunition. As cold as it is, and with several squalls still lurking about, I'm sure there will be other opportunities.
Race wise we have been slowly reeling in the leaders and holding off djuice and News Corp from behind. News Corp is a bit of an anomaly because they are 60 miles north of us, and if the wind stays around 220, they are ahead, and if it goes 240 or more we are ahead. The forecast we have been setting ourselves up for is more the 250 range. The leaders likewise have picked different sides of the course to come in from. So it is becoming quite a chess game, the only difference being that every fourth move, Mother Nature gets to make a move for whomever she fancies at the moment.
It is also looking like the wind will compress the fleet together at the Horn, so it will be more interesting for the spectators, and more intensity for the players. It would be great to have the boats within 30 miles of each other for the race up to Rio. So far we are very happy with our performance for the last 3000 miles and have kept ASSA ABLOY in good racing condition for the 2200-mile drag up the coast. We have suffered a lot of little breakages, but nothing that can slow us down.
Likewise the crew has stayed healthy and injury free, eating and resting as best as possible. It is so important to stay ahead in this area. One tired person makes a small mistake, which leads to snowballing (!) damage and further fatigue. Next thing you know everyone is exhausted and sometimes shell shocked. It can take days in this freezing environment to recover, while the strong push ahead. We haven't forgotten that to win this race, you need to finish each leg in good enough time and condition, to be up to speed for the next restart.
At the moment, it looks like we're less than 48 hrs to the [Cape] Horn and maybe we'll be lucky and beat the northwesterly gale coming in from the west. We've had enough of those in this part of the world, and if I could be lucky enough to make it around the Horn twice without getting slammed, I could retire a happy guy.
Cheers for now from
Mark "Rudi" Rudiger