After enduring ten frustrating days of calms, Paul Larson writes:
“Thank God that’s over. When I started this voyage in reality a little over two years ago preparing to sail with Pete Goss on Team Philips, I promised to tell my e-mail circle of friends what life would be like in the raw. It has certainly been that. The last 10 days of calms have corresponded to a deep dark dip in our track. But that is now blasting away behind us in fizzing wakes and great swirls of spray. Our car is on the up again at over 20 knots, the endless repetitive speculation and hair-pulling frustration that came with each slip-slop of the sails, now a long way astern.
“Our problems began with the loss of our SATCOM B transceiver when it was washed off the back of the port hull by a big wave while approaching the South Island of New Zealand. We used this to download all our weather maps so that we can see exactly where the Highs and Lows are and what shape they are in. We asked the Race Committee if we could replace it when passing through Cook Strait. They said it would take a couple of days, so we figured on not stopping, based on the fact that St James’s Yachting, our weather routers back home, would be able to give us this information and more. Their interpretation sent over in text form would always be better informed that ours.
“You have to remember that we didn’t plan to stop in Wellington until the last minute, and even then only for a flying visit. And when we did stop, we still wanted to leave as soon as possible as a large windless High was approaching. Instead, we took a 60 hour pit-stop and got stuck like flies in honey – trapped in a High that simply followed us East. What winds there were, came from the south, blocking our route back down into the Southern Ocean. We were told where the best winds were, and it was up to us to best handle the conditions to get there. Time and again the door got shut as the fickle weather systems eluded us. What it says on the map in front of the weather router’s eyes, isn’t necessarily what we see in reality before our own.
“The gap between our nearest competition, the Poles on Warta Polpharma, grew from 1,200 miles to 2,700 miles. If all now goes well for them, this lead will be insurmountable, but in the fickle world of yacht racing, perseverance is always rewarded. For all we know, they could yet find themselves in less than perfect conditions.
“Sitting here now, with the cold Southern Ocean waters making a comforting roaring hiss through the hull just inches from my ear, we are beginning once more to reel them in. There is no time to be bitter and twisted. We just have to remind ourselves of the importance of the word team. We have to re-group and focus on the problems ahead. This week, another much older and more formidable foe entered the arena – time. The first boat crossed the line on Saturday. Congratulations to the Club Med Team and a deserved win. They chose their team well, worked hard in their preparation and pushed hard all the way, showcasing the capabilities of this new generation of boat. Considering that they circumnavigated via the Mediterranean and Cook Strait, their time of 62 days is remarkable. In the next few years, other records will now tumble significantly.
“What it means for us is that the deadline is now in place for Team Legato to finish. We have until 2 April to complete the remaining 9,500 miles. That’s an average of 320 miles a day, or a little more than 13 knots. At the moment this is quite easily within our reach. But we can’t afford another light weather spell like we just had.