Battle of Waterloo

Mark Covell reports from the Team Russia discotheque

Monday November 24th 2008, Author: Mark Covell, Location: United Kingdom
Boom boom shake de room, like a custom streetcar, cruising past, belting out base in your face, a close reach on a Volvo 70 is a noisy thing. Like a well-trained racehorse they are so powerful and eager to jump over the next fence. Endlessly bounding and leaping, wave after wave, hill after hill. At every landing, a thunderous boom from the belligerent bow section sounds. Sorry to keep using war references in my blogs but the analogies seam to fit so well. I woke in the night and thought I was in the midst of the Battle of Waterloo. Distant cannon fire shaking the walls, spreading fear and dread, through the ranks of the French.

Down wind broad reaching is fast and swerving, shaking the crew from side to side and thrusting them forward as the bow compress over the wave ahead. Wind her up a few degrees, push the keel out to max, sheet on and you have a power reach power play on your hands, ready to throw crew out their bunks and generally make life on board a touch more challenging than usual.

The reason we have taken this course is one of attack. We took a wider more southerly route to stay in the roaring forties that then served up more wind and got us back in the hunt. We then had a more easterly sling shot up through the scouring gate in fourth place. It didn’t however help us to get through the difficult transition between the Southern Ocean and the Trades. The fleet is further advanced on the route and at the time they came past this point they felt it was right for them to go direct and north and try to cross the dreaded doldrums at a more westerly point than us.

On the last leg we learned a harsh lesson that in the chaotic and ever randomly shifting doldrums, you can’t trust the weather models. We have a number of computer forecasting tools on board that look like an in-car sat nav in a city rush hour, it will not always send you the fastest way home for tea. You have to use your gut feelings, research and insight. You need to know the back route, the rat run that only the locals now. You also need to understand risk. Are you racing home after work for dinner with the mother-in-law coming round to talk you to death about pot plants or is it your favorite meal, a bottle of fine wine and promise from the wife? How high are the stakes? How much are you going to risk? Are you defending or attacking. Well right now, we are on the attack! We have Delta Lloyd behind us and the whole fleet in front. We are not just taking a flyer; Wouter and the watch leaders discussed it at length with Andreas last night. The decision was to monitor the situation but put the first steps into the East and trade some miles with the fleet, one step back for hopefully seven forward. If we follow the fleet down the same path it is unlikely we will pass them. But there is no point in doing something different just for the sake of being different. We like the path we have chosen and if we had got to this crossroads in front of the fleet we may have taken the same choice as now. So like Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo with cannons thundering, history will record if we have been dammed or redeemed by our decision to attack.

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