Slipping along

Paul Cayard reports from the Black Pearl

Saturday March 4th 2006, Author: Paul Cayard, Location: none selected
We are slipping along at 7 knots in 4 knots of wind thanks to our Code 0. These powerful sails make light air incredibly less painful. We are just passing east of the Falklands. Our router has us staying quite east for the first two thirds of the leg to Rio.

The five day forecast shows a very tricky leg to Rio. We will have about five transitions, leaving one weather system and entering or being over taken by another, to deal with. The first was yesterday after rounding the Cape. ABN AMRO One and Pirates sailed into a stalled bit of cloud that was hanging off the land. The both of us parked pretty firmly while the others sailed up in the 30 knots of wind around the Cape. We took a huge hit on one sked, 50 miles to Brasil and about 0 to each of Ericsson and ABN AMRO Two. Then as Brasil got to the area that we parked in, the cloud band moved off to the east and they were able to slip in along the coast and go through the La Maire Strait, all the while enjoying more wind and more lifted direction. They paid a bit back today as they had to come down east to go around the Falklands like the rest of us. Tonight we are going through a small bubble of high pressure.

The wind has dropped steadily all afternoon and now we are literally coasting along. There appears to be no wind on the water, it is a clear night and you can see the reflection of the stars in the water like a plate of glass. Really a pretty night and the stars are so bright when you are out here away from the loom of any city. Again, and experience few ever get.

Tomorrow and Sunday should be good mileage days as we pick up westerlies again early in the morning. Sunday night we will sail through a high pressure ridge. This could be another moment of reshuffling. After that we pick up southeasterlies on the west side of a low pressure cell that is forming right now near Buenos Aires and will drift out to sea over the next 48 hours.

Don't know if you are that much into weather so sorry for the information over load if you aren't. But that is basically what I do. I, along with Jules Salter, have to analyze the information we get, decide if it is accurate, if not, adjust the models, then run the right weather through the routing software which then spits out a bunch of numbers. We then take all that and make a strategy that includes the location of our competitors what they are likely to do or be able to do from their position with the weather that they will have.

Apart from all the work, I caught up on some sleep today, 24 hour sessions and worked on my sail cross over chart, making notes on what we have learned about our sails and when to use them, angles and wind speeds. I also treated my self to my other, fresh, pair of base layer. Yes, that's right; I have been wearing the same clothes for 12 days. I gave myself a shower of sorts, lots of baby wipes, and then I slid into the fresh smelling long johns and top. Man, what a difference that made. I still have the same socks because I have a complicated sock system and I have only one set up. That is a wool inner sock, a Gore-Tex sock, and then another wool sock. I had to run light weight boots on this leg as the really heavy duty boots, which are made of rubber, are too small for my feet and the cold was going right through them. So I took a bit of a gamble wearing my Musto Gore-Tex inshore boots in the Southern Ocean, but I made it!

We compile our work list onboard the boat as the leg goes on so today I sent that off tour shore team so they can get prepared before our arrival.

There is all the normal maintenance plus a few bigger jobs. I want to mention that none of the major repairs we have had to do on this boat have ever come back to bother us. Our shore team long with the builders at Green Marine who have constantly looked after even though our boat long since left their yard, and our designer at Farr Yacht Design, have done a very good job of identifying the problems and solving them in a proper way. Thanks to everyone for that! I am looking forward to getting to Rio. Rio is one of those cities that has an exotic image. I first went to Rio in 1977, the same year I graduated from high school. The Laser World Championship was in Cabo Frio, just up the coast from Rio. I met many nice people like the Bruns and the Adlers who helped me and looked after me. I really like Rio. I have been there several times since, but the memories that I have of the Yacht Club, the city, Sugar Loaf, Copacabana and Ipanema from 30 years ago, have left the strongest impressions in my mind. I am looking forward to visiting all those same places and probably some new ones and seeing all my friends who live in that great city.

Torben Grael and his team are staging a great comeback in this leg. You can almost feel Brazil pulling them in like gravity. For the Volvo Ocean Race to have an athlete with Torben's record, participating, putting his name on the line, adds a great deal of quality and stature to the event.

Brasil knows how to celebrate and I am sure they will turn out in droves to welcome home their team after this long race from New Zealand.

We haven't sailed much in these very light conditions so I am going to go up on deck and sail the boat for a while to try to learn something.

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