Regaining lost miles

Ellen's big cat roars south

Sunday February 2nd 2003, Author: James Boyd/Offshore Challenges, Location: Transoceanic
Day 3 Position 24hr distance Av speed
Kingfisher2 30°09N 24°37W 535 22.29
Geronimo 27°07N 19°13W 503 20.96
Orange 29°6N 20°46W 460.32 19.18

Av/Max boat speed in last hour: 10.5/24.5 knots [gennaker dropped for small repair
Av/Max wind speed in last hour: 8.63/20.5 knots
Wind direction: 049
Distance to Equator: 1829nm (theorectical shortest distance)

The big conditions of the first day at sea made for a slowish start of Kingfisher2's Jules Verne attempt and although she is now behind both Orange and Geronimo passages, Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher2 are now gaining.

Going west early has allowed Kingfisher2 to sail a hotter angle in the northeasterly breeze and she is certainly motoring... As the figures above show, the big cat has notched up the fastest day three run of the three boats - at an average over the 24 hour period of 22.29 knots. It is only a few years ago that speeds such as this would have been unimaginable.

Offshore Challenge now estimate Kingfisher2 to have closed to within 4 hours 55 minutes of Orange's record passage and 10 hours 15 minutes behind Geronimo.

Ellen MacArthur emails from on board...

The life of the navigator!!

Well, things hae been going well today - albeit the danger of a low pressure sucking way some fo our wind tomorrow. We hve seen our first flying fish today - though I can't say that I'm party to that - as I've been down below for all but half an hour of today. It's now 0217, it's a beautiful night outside on deck as we cream south in the early signs of the trade winds. Things are definitley warmer, though there is a nasty perpetual draft coming out of Kingfisher2's back beam, so it's not so easy to doze in the nav station without a sleeping bag! Funnily enough - Andrew [Preece] in the media station is draftless, but on the other gybe things will change.

We're smoking today with a good breezefrom the NE, and Kingfisher2 seems to be rocketing along. We've already passed the island of Madeira - which seems unbelievable after less than three days at sea. This sure is the way to travel!

My main concern is whether the wind will die soon. We have positioned ourselves in the west so that if the wind goes lighter tomorrow we will still be able to sail higher and faster. I hope that the lighter wind does not materialise - but we're ready for it if it does - and we should not be slowed too badly because of it. It's always hard to make a decision how we are going to position ourselves.

So far the weather models have not been incredibly accurate - which has not really helped us in our quest for the optial route. Yesterday morning we had a wind shift of 30 degrees - which hppenned in the space of a few seconds. Though the wind has fluctuated sine then it has never returned to it's previous direction - which was frustrating as I'd been up nearly the entire night planning the moment we should gybe! But somehow you know that the day you ignore their information they will come up and bite you - so right now we're being a bit more cautious than maybe we would like to be...

Humour is excellent - and poeple are already begining to appreciate the more simple things in lfe like the final few satsumas we have left over from our trip to the start line.

People are begining to use their Sony Clie's for e-mail - often there will be a little light glowing away in the bunks after a watch. Everyone is smiling - even BiBi who seems to be recovering from his chest cold. The only bad news is that Hervé seems to be going down with the same cold - but at least the weather is getting better. That's a big plus. Anyway - it's been a long night so far - and it's time I got some sleep... so I guess - till tomorrow!

From on board Andrew Preece writes...

I think one thing that has been an enormous benefit to all of us over the last two days of brutal weather we have run straight into, has been the three watch leaders who have been running the deck of Kingfisher2. Herve Jan, Neal McDonald and Guillermo Altadill were all with Grant Dalton when Club Med won The Race and it is comforting to know that all of them have been there, done that and know what is possible and some of what is impossible with these catamarans.

When it comes to sail changes their choices are impeccable but when it comes to knowing how to save the boat, when to keep the boat speed down to 20 knots and how much apparent wind the big spinnaker can handle without bringing the mast down, their experience is vital.

All three of them have very different styles though all three are completely natural sailors. Neal is the engineer and naval architect who understands the loads in the mast, appreciates the scale of the slamming loads in the hulls as we pummel into the waves in more than 60 knots of true wind.

Hervé Jan is the fisherman who is on his seventh lap of the planet and who innately feels the forces of nature and knows when to step on it and when to bow to bigger forces.

Guillermo is the dinghy sailor with a feel for the wheel and how to make a boat go fast.

In each of their own ways they have an understanding of what this is all about and how to make best speed without hammering the boat to pieces. These are vital skills, that all of the sailors on each of their watches respects utterly. Their word goes without question and when you are down below trying to sleep in the bowels of the bucking bronco, it is massively helpful to slumber to know that upstairs on deck is being by a safe pair of hands.

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