In the aftermath of the big night at sea
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems and ProGRIB|
|Positions at 1900GMT|
In the Open 60 division of the Route du Rhum Dominique Wavre continues his push, his new Owen Clarke design Temenos clearly loving the big running conditions. This morning Wavre moved up to third place, after Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec was late to put in a gybe south and in the last 12 hours has closed 15 miles on leader Roland Jourdain on board Sill et Veolia. Remarkably Jourdain revealed today that he broke his boom while passing the Azores almost a week ago. He did not even think about stopping, but fixed the boom with all the materials he could find on the boat.
Fastest in the class over the last sched has been second placed Jean le Cam on VM Materiaux who has averaged an impressive 18 knots with an instaneous speed reading of 21.2 knots.
Wavre this afternoon described the conditions on board: "I have been hoisting canvas and I now have everything aloft. The boat is incredible. There is 20 knots of wind and I’m making an average of 16 to 17 knots with surfs of 22 to 23 knots. I’m helming for about quarter of the time as the boat is behaving really well under pilot."
"The trade winds should gradually drop off as we close on Guadeloupe. The seas have calmed down a bit and I’ve managed to make the most of the conditions to hoist a little more canvas. The seas are less messy than they were yesterday. We’re expecting a rotation in the wind this afternoon and gybing at the right time is always important if you don’t want to lose miles."
"So we’re beginning the final battle. I’m going to do everything I can to hold
onto this third place but while we’re not all on the same tack, it’s pretty
difficult to establish a hierarchy . Sill et Véolia is a long way ahead and
VM Matèriaux looks difficult to catch between here and the finish."
Phil Sharp continues to lead the Class 40s although a position for his nearest rival Gildas Morvan on Oyster Funds is not available at present, it looks like this afternoon Morvan may have closed to within 100 miles of Sharp.
The conditions over the last 24 hours have been severe for the Class 40s, with big gusts, shifts, thunderstorms, gales, big seas, For Sharp the conditions proved far larger than were forecast. "Early this morning I was 140 miles ahead of Gildas, but I lost ground (20 miles) because I had a bit of a setback," he reported this afternoon. "There was a very big thunderstorm at about 3-4am and 60 knots of wind. Obviously I was not expecting that much wind so I had up my gennaker and three reefs in the mainsail.
"The wind and the seas came up of nowhere, the boat fell over and the genaker was ripped to shreds, so now I have no genaker, which leaves me quite handicapped for the rest of the race. The wind was very southerly and it turned out I was in the eye of the thunderstorm. The wind was too much for the boat to handle, She finally laid on her side with the sails flapping. I literally lay inside because the cockpit was vertical. Then I was hanging off out of the guardrail trying to get the mainsail down. It is quite difficult to get the sails down when the boat is the wrong way out.
"When the wind dropped the rain was stlll unbelievable. It hurt to stay outside. It was actually so painful! It was raining marbles. But the wind was so vicious that you had to stay out under the rain.
"I am pissed off about the genniker, because it reduces my performance. I'll need to climb up the mast today to retrieve the halyard so I can use the genoa instead of the genaker that is in the sea somewhere in many pieces. But I'll have to wait to climb up the mast because there is still a thunderstorm around me and the wind is very variable. When that has passed, I'll climb the mast. So my holiday in the Caribbean'will come a bit later than expected !"
Ian Munslow on board Bollands Mills is back up to seventh place and at the latest sched is showing the second highest four hourly run in the Class 40s after Sharp. However he too has had a bit on. After the strong winds last night Munslow admitted to bring overly exhausted. However the weather had cleared up this morning making it possible for him to sort out a broken batten in his main sail. Sleeping was also on his 'to do list as he had barely slept overnight.
Meanwhile Nick Bubb on Kenmore Homes is now down to 17th place having broken the boom on his Kenmore Homes. As he reports:
"At about 0200 on Wednesday morning I finally made it through the front to the gale force NE winds we were expecting, I was running in 10th position and with this downwind sleigh ride that only the run away leader and a few others had got into things were looking very promising for fighting up towards the top five again. I was well prepared as conditions changed and as the wind increased and veered. I was quickly down to my staysail and three reefs in the mainsail (the same area as my trysail which is a heavyweight small orange mainsail for use in extreme conditions). With the wind gusting from 40 to 50 knots, a huge seaway built and soon I was amongst some off the most hairy conditions I have ever encountered, (Southern Ocean included!). This seaway had already caused the capsize of the trimaran, IIdeal Stelrad, just ahead of me earlier in the night.
"Despite this, with the boat speed between 15-22 knots, I felt very comfortable. It was pitch black and, with waves breaking over the deck, I felt it was best to let the pilot get on with it. After an hour or so I braved the foredeck to check everything was okay with my Solent, which was furled away, and to retrieve some loose lines. While I was up there the boat surfed down one particularly big wave and bore away as the wind angle changed - unfortunately just a tiny bit too much and the boat crash gybed while I hung on for dear life.
I worked my way back to the cockpit not too concerned -0 crash gybing is something which does inevitably happen to solo sailors every now and again - and with no spinnakers up and such a tiny mainsail there should have been no problem. As I cleared the reefed part of the mainsail off the coachroof and prepared to gybe back I noticed the angle of the outboard end of the boom to the mast was wrong and my heart fell as my brain calculated what had happened.
"As ever I had put a preventer on the boom with a fuse system for such circumstances and this had worked properly it seemed, the fuse was broken anyway...... So, I can only conclude that the boom broke (in the middle) when the end hit the runner. We always thought the section looked a little small when it turned up from the manufacturer a few days before my qualifier......
"Anyway, I then fought the huge flapping mainsail and boom pieces down onto the deck, removed the headboard car and lashed them all down. At the moment I am still running downwind with just my staysail trying to decide what to do: I am in the middle of the Atlantic with no struts/poles/tubes to splint the boom with and I am very unlikely to have enough food, water or fuel (to charge the batteries with) to make it to the Caribbean in this state, coupled with that we have headwinds forecast in a few days.
I" am planning a system with the spinnaker sheets to use the main at 3rd reef point with a loose foot but my wind angle is going to be shocking. The Azores are just over 500 miles to the east so it looks like my best option is to head there once this gale passes. It will mean retiring from the race something, which in the last five years and around 40 offshore races, I have only had to do once before (even the broken mast on the trimaran in the Round Britain earlier this summer didn't stop us.....) but it does seem to be the only sensible thing to do. I will be endangering myself to carry on in this disabled state and any further issues would make a tough situation very difficult. After all the hard work from so many people that has gone into making this project happen, I am totally devastated but left with little option.
"Thank you all for your support, lets hope the winds are favourable to get to the Azores!!!"