Paul Cayard update

Mixed conditions and a torn spinnaker on the Black Pearl

Thursday May 18th 2006, Author: Paul Cayard, Location: United Kingdom


A pretty good day for the Black Pearl. We finally made some gains on Brasil1 and stretched bit on ABN2. The weather has been a 'rich get richer' scenario for the past few days but today everyone had a chance to make some gains. We all gybed a couple of times and repositioned ourselves so there were Opportunities. This afternoon we all picked out slots for dealing with a high pressure ridge tonight. The safer route was also the longer route. We are in the middle as usual with Brasil lining up to be the closest to the light wind zone and ABN1 and Ericsson being the furthest and therefore safest.

We got a large piece of lumber stuck on our keel this morning so we had to drop the spinnaker, stop and back down in 22 knots of wind. It takes a while to recover with the right spinnaker back up and everything back to normal. We have gotten pretty good at backing down and figure that they only cost us about 2 miles. But it is amazing that we could hit a 2x2 in the middle of the ocean, hit it right in the middle of its 4 foot length, fold it in half around the keel and not have it come off.

Today we also got some speed up, real speed, first time since round the Horn really. We hit 26 knots and had the water rushing over the deck most of the afternoon. The waves were not very large but it really put a smile on everyone's face to be going over 10 knots. I mean here we are not quite half way across the Atlantic and it is coming up on day 6.

Tonight we are back into some lighter winds as we approach a small high pressure ridge, we should get past that by tomorrow afternoon ad then the wind will ramp up and be 25-35 for Thursday and Friday. With any luck we will arrive in Portsmouth some time late Saturday night.

Right now we are 160 miles south-south east of Flemish Cap, a position made famous in the film Perfect Storm. It is a long way from Gloucester, Massachusetts, especially in a storm!

The sea temp is 16°C so it is quite civil both on deck and below. We even had sun all day today which was a treat. Pretty fun to be ripping along at 25 knots on a beautiful, sunny day, so many miles from nowhere.

A Norwegian ship was on a converging course with us for several miles this afternoon. I rang up the bridge on VHF16 and talked to them about our impending intersecting course. They were very nice to us an we passed in front without any problem. I had nice chat with the Captain. The ship was from Bergen and the captain was intimately familiar with the race and commented on our speed; we were doing about 20 knots average at the time.

They had delivered a load of Norwegian crude to New Orleans and were on their way back. Their course was up over the top of Scotland and into Bergen.

The wind is really dropping as I write this; down to 8 knots. Losing the wind is always an anxious time. It should be dropping for all, except maybe Movistar who is in a different weather system.

That's it for today. I'm very tired right now and heading for sleep.

DAY 7

We had a tough break a few hours ago. Our big mast head running spinnaker tore in half. There was no flogging or luffing, it just parted. It was blowing about 24 knots at the time. So now we have a smaller reaching sail on and we are sailing a higher angle to try to keep our speed up.

This is going to cost us a bit for sure. How much depends on what the wind does over the next 6 hours while Justin Ferris and Dirk de Ridder repair the sail with our onboard sewing machine. I hope the wind comes up another couple of knots then we can put the fractional spinnaker on and be just fine.

Other than that, we ere having a good day, reeling in Brasil1 to 11 miles from the 40 mile lead they had on us yesterday. The wind has come up nicely today and we are making good miles toward England finally. It has been a very slow leg so far. It looks like we will do the first half of the leg in 6 days and the second half in about 3.5 days.

The general plan now is to sail to the northeast on port tack tonight then gybe tomorrow morning onto starboard and head east with southwesterly winds coming from a low pressure that is catching up to us. Then the wind really builds, maybe to 40 knots or more. The router is calling for gybes every 8 hours so that will be interesting to see how we decide to manage that. Do we just go straight or do we attempt the maneuvers? Naturally, the router wants us to gybe in the night.

So for now it is a bit of anxiety; waiting for the guys to finish the repair of the spinnaker and praying for the wind to come up so it doesn't matter.

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