Mark Covell working his magic
Oman Sail
Mark Covell working his magic

“Stuck between a rock and a hard place”

The latest Mark Covell missives from on board Oman Sail's trimaran in the Indian Ocean

Friday February 19th 2010, Author: Mark Covell, Location: none selected

Blog 18 - GPS position as I write S 7°32', E 73°51'
Have you ever made a journey to somewhere, where you know bad news awaits you?  We’re on a journey with some very bad news just ahead of us. As I write, there is a Tropical Cyclone called “Gelane” just off Mauritius. Its barometric pressure is 975hpa. If we were foolish enough to go within a 100knm radius of it’s epicenter, we would be battered with giant waves and winds gusting up to 100 mph.

The storm is slowly tracking SSE at 3 knots. Every two hours our satellite navigation systems flash up warnings to alert us to the danger, and to stay away from the area. The red popup message comes on with a loud beeping signal, that even though you know about it and you hit cancel only 2 hours ago, it serves as a constant reminder that the storm is still raging ahead of us.
Paul and Thierry Douillard have been tracking it even before we left the Maldives. As its slap bang on our track, you would be forgiven for suggesting we should just sail a course around it from days ago. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the second tropical storm in the area, just to east of the main one. The diversion would be huge. You would have no guarantees that it wouldn't change direction and track back out at you.  So go round the whole thing to the West, I here you chant. Problem number 2, Madagascar is in the way and you would be even more stupid to get yourself trapped between an angered storm and a lee shore. That would, be the true definition of “stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

So without trying to sound like a story I read my kids about a bear hunt. We can’t go round it, we can’t go over it, and we can’t go under it so we’ll have to STOP!

Yes you read that right. It looks like we’ll need to slow right down and stop. We may reef right down to reduce sail and hit the very under utilised seaman’s choice, of going slower.

Sailing boat’s don’t have brakes, but if they did, this is when they would be used. Just as a Formula One racing car driver hits the brakes before going into a tight corner too fast, we are hitting the brakes before we go into our Indian Ocean corner too fast and spin out.

This is Mohsin and Mohammad’s first tropical cyclone – but they have trust in Paul (and God) to keep them safe. Mohsin has helped fix a few broken parts as we have slowed down. Mohammad helmed for 2 hours straight this morning.

Stop Press:
Paul has now confirmed that we are to sail at a maximum of 8 knots until further notice.
It has been a very hard decision, but to go into the storm headfirst, knowing what we know now, would be madness. Stay tuned for more twists and turns on this changing racetrack.

Blog 19 - “Slow Down Before The Hoedown!” (Folks - Mark is a frustrated rapper)

GPS position as I write S 8°12', E 74°00'

It’s goes against every racing bone in your body to actively reduce sail and slow down. After Paul made the call we all felt very strange. We had only about 15 knots of wind with a grey sky and a small swell. We furled the J1 and put a reef in the main.

Now we have to crawl, the crew doesn’t know what to do with themselves. Mohsin was happy to sit on the deck in the light rain and get a slow shower as if in a stream bath with its fine spray. Mohammad looked crest fallen as he had worked really hard in the night sailing his fastest. Only now to have his good work reduced to slapping waves and sloppy sails. No longer is Majan singing her song of speed. It’s hard to explain to Mohammed what we are trying to avoid, as it’s an experience any sailor would not want to witness. He nodded his head and said, “I never thought I would be racing with Paul Standbridge and have to slow down. I guess it’s just a lesson I have to learn”.

Mohammed’s wide eyed expression just got more extreme as Mike Gilles told stories of 50 knots onboard Thomas Colville’s maxi-trimaran, Sodeb’O on a trip from Cape Town to New York back in 2008. We are all learning a lesson in patience and how not to walk straight into a tropical storm asking for a fight.

Latest Comments

  • andyn 19/02/2010 - 12:14

    Now, looking at that picture I am wondering if they have just anchored somewhere for lunch and Mark is looking up pork rib marinade recipes on the internet?

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