Running for cover

Around Alone's class two head for port as class one soldier on ready for a weekend of storm force headwinds

Thursday October 17th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Everest Horizontal skipper Tim Kent explains the hard decision he has had to make to put into Spain

This is the first day that Iridium is back on line, and it is nice to be able to send a long message to all of you. The last couple of days have been filled with storms followed by nice sailing, interrupted by computer and telephone problems (deftly handled by a sat phone exchange with Sam Gould, my computer guru extraordinaire) interspersed with some really difficult decision making.

Right now, it's great sailing. I am headed south at 12 knots under the genoa and a single reefed main. I had a fresh steak for breakfast, believe it or not, and the sun is out - it's been a gorgeous day with as much as 25 knots of true wind to shoot me along.

But there is a serious storm system brewing, the source of the decision making.
There are two deep lows approaching the Azores which are going to combine into one very deep depression - forecasts are for a 970 millibar low - very dangerous. Some of you may remember that the so-called perfect storm was formed when three weather systems combined, similar to the '79 Fastnet Race and the lethal Sydney-Hobart race.

Forecast winds on the 21st are from 70 to 80 knots from the west across the entire western Atlantic. This, combined with the lee shore thoughtfully provided by Spain, Portugal and Africa, spell a recipe for extremely dangerous conditions.

The Class 2 boats, including Everest Horizontal, have indicated that they intend to seek shelter in La Coruna or Vigo, both in Spain. It appears that all of the Class 2 boats, Spirit of Canada, Tommy Hilfiger, Bayer, BTC Velocity, Spirit of Yukoh and I will be riding out this storm in port. I should be in the vicinity mid-afternoon tomorrow in time to beat the storm.

Everest Horizontal was built to deal with conditions like those we are about to encounter, but in the open ocean. In a situation like this in the middle of the Atlantic, you turn and run with it. But here, there is no turning and no running. My first priority is to finish this race safely - it's the promise that I made to Whitney and Alison, and I intend to keep it. I love to race, and I'll race hard once we leave port. But it will be far easier to race hard with my boat intact.

It was a tough call, but when I got back on line last night and saw that the forecast was deteriorating, I altered course for Spain. The fact that virtually my entire class has made the same call makes it even easier.

I hope you all understand this call - it was an incredibly difficult one to make. If the storm does not materialise like we think it will, I'll feel a bit sheepish. But I'd feel far worse if I stayed out and damaged the boat - or worse.

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