Roadblock ahead?

A ridge of high pressure is blocking the path of the Volvo fleet

Monday May 6th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
An e-mail from Mark Rudiger aboard Assa Abloy 1300 miles from France: tells us of screaming demons in the night and asks, "who are those masked men anyway?"

Almost 22-knot average boat speed lately! If only we had the Gulf Stream giving us a four-knot boost, we could have a shot at illbruck's record. We're riding along the edge of a strong cold front wondering if it will overtake us and lift us, or we stay on the edge with a wild fire hose reach. I'm constantly keeping the guys updated on deck through my little hatch in the Nav station. When I look out there, I see a bunch of guys in Henri Lloyd foul weather gear with only wide-open eyes exposed. Guillermo [Altadill] is recognizable because he has the goggles on.

I'm yelling at the top of my voice to be heard over the wind and boat noise: "First wave of front passing now, next wave two to three hours. Could be up to 38 knots like the last one. Southerly current building to two knots against the wind. Watch for steep waves. Course over ground right on the money. We gained one mile on illbruck, and six degrees bearing and one mile on Tyco. Keep the pedal down."

I quickly close the hatch as another ton of water gushes down the cockpit. Everyone is perched all the way back on the stern with main and spinnaker sheet in hand. The grinder runs forward once in a while to grind. Everything in the boat is stacked all the way aft. Whoaaaaa! Big wind check broach! Full spread eagle brace in the Nav station. Flog, flog, boat shudders and quickly shakes it off as ASSA ABLOY tears off down another wave. You're going to have a few of those if your pushing the edge. After 48 Hrs of these conditions, the nerves are getting a little frayed, and the commands are getting a little tenser at times. That's one of the many reasons we have Magnus [Olsson] along to lighten things up, helped by Klabbe [Klas Nylof] hitting 31.5 knots sustained down a big one. Fun is Fast! Stay loose, work together.

The next big test of the nerves looks to be when to make the break for the ridge we have to cross and negotiating light winds with left over chop. Then to set up for the approach, and not get caught too low of the low looking to set up over Spain.

Looks like some bumps in the road ahead. May have to check the seat belts and get the crash helmet ready.

At our last crew meeting the night before the start, I gave an optimistic 11 days, 22 hours elapsed time ETA for this leg. Magnus said "Impossible, you are crazy!" Now with just over 1300 miles to go, we have 118 hours to make that deadline or an 11-knot average. It's true, I am crazy, but so are these boats and the drivers, so I think we can do it. It all comes down to how fast we can cross this ridge, and how friendly or unfriendly the low coming in will be.

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