Earning one's position

From the Transat AG2R Phil Sharp laments the days slogging upwind while those to the south bask in the Trades

Tuesday May 6th 2008, Author: Phil Sharp, Location: United Kingdom
Tuesday 6th May 2008
Phil Sharp and David Krizek on board Atlantick FT
Day 16 of the AG2R race from Concarneau to St Barth, West Indies
Time of position: 0500 GMT
Latitude: 26 58.01’N Longitude: 41 25.37’W
Average Speed: 6 knots
Miles to go: 1,304.7
Fleet position: 3rd out of 26 starters
Miles Behind Leader: 69.6

“Well after five days of slogging upwind across the Atlantic the wind is miraculously going aft and we’re just prepared the spinnaker for hoist on this calm morning where dawn breaks noticeably later each day as we head west. Incredibly, despite our painfully slow progress and recent inabilility to point anywhere near the direction of the Caribbean, the northern pack of boats that we’re amongst is still holding a good lead on the boats down in the south. This looks set to change though as we have a very light couple of days ahead of us whereas the southerners have reached the trade winds now and will be blasting downwind in entirely different conditions to the finish. Right now though it is still wide open. We have about 200 miles on the leader of the southern pack, Cercle Vert, and we could well get more wind than forecast to help us to a strong finish before the boats from the south stream in, all the skippers with great tans I’m sure, unlike us who have seen mostly rain and squalls over the last couple of days. Yesterday we got hit by a 35-knot squall and absolutely torrential rain, and all we could think about was the guys in the south cruising effortlessly downwind, spinnaker up, with far greater speed. One thing is for sure, we feel as though we've earnt and deserve a good result much more than those guys!”

“We temporarily lost a couple of positions yesterday morning as we got slowed in a local area of light winds, but have overtaken three boats overnight and closed slightly on first and second place. Right now one of boats we've overtaken, Group Celeos, is in visual about half a mile behind us now. In fact he's in exactly the same position at the same distance as when we saw him just after Madeira. I still find it incredible that after
2,500 miles of racing and the fleet radiating off in all directions, you can find yourself right next to someone again and find it impossible to get rid of them for days. Maybe it is a bit of a game of "OK, well I’m not convinced I'm going the best way so maybe I'll
stay close to you, you must know where you’re going since you've just overtaken me". That’s probably an exaggeration but there is definitely magnetic ties between lots of boats in the Figaro class. Perhaps people prefer to take someone else down with them in case they stuff up! The last thing I like doing is following anyone obliviously, I think it important to have you're own game plan so you can try and jump the guys ahead of you. However as it has worked out, the three players ahead of us have similar optimal routes based on limited weather information, same routing software, and similar local effects such as wind shifts. So fingers crossed we've worked well enough as a group to beat the southern lightweights. Time will tell!”

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