Brits in front

Ellen takes lead but more strong weather looming

Wednesday November 13th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Update from Conrad Humphreys

Course: 278 degrees
Speed: 8.5 knots
Position: 47.56.22 N, 07.54.82 W
Wind strength: 21.9 knots
Wind direction: 225 degrees
Sea state: Rough - 25-33 feet
Barometer 989 mb

The work rate is still very intense and with an average of just three hours sleep a day my body is screaming 'rest'. The conditions have been punishing, bitterly cold and so changeable. The nights are very black and squally. Each trough is greeted by a line of squalls with gusts last night into the high 30s. I can cope with the relentless sail changes, but the niggling electrical and mechanical problems are causing intense fatigue, taxing my brain when it is already in zombie mode.

Yesterday during daylight hours, we crashed off a big wave that shook the mast so violently it must have damaged the pcboard in the wind vane. Normally it would be okay to let the boat steer by compass but with the wind so shifty, this proved hopeless. My options were to climb the rig and replace the pcboard or rewire the second spare wind vane into the control head.

The second option was clearly the most obvious until you have positioned yourself inside the forepeak that is going up and crashing off 30 ft waves, holding a headtorch in the pitch blackness, a screwdriver and five colour coded wires that are so thin you need a surgeon's tweezers to hold them. To my utter astonishment this worked and feeling very pleased with myself I cooked a fine curry and grabbed a half-hour sleep. The second my head hit the grab bag (my pillow) we crashed off another huge wave with a loud splitting crash. And this time the speed sensor disappeared.

Suddenly the pilot is trying to steer all over the ocean, the famous 104 alarm message is flashing and ringing at me and I have absolutely no idea how to fix this one. Checked all the connections and did the famous reboot to the system - nothing. Check the gravity switch - no problems there. Must be a wire in the main processor? Looked at the amazing mass of wires in there and decided the manual might help at this stage - no
problems there. Finally we crash off another wave and it comes to life....and I still haven't found out why.

By this stage, I'm desperate for a few zzzs, the boat is a mess, we need another reef and to tack over to the west. So this is the reward for a year's worth of work to get to the start line - as the French would say.....pffffff!

Cheers, Conrad

Below: the conditions Conrad would like to be experiencing at this moment

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