Thursday, 17 November 2011

Media reporting from a floating sauna in the Doldrums

Ken Read watches weather forming behind PUMA Ocean Racing
Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
The fleet has now navigated through the tricky conditions of the Doldrums, and crossed the equator and past the turning mark of Fernando de Noronha, a small Island just off Brazil. When a Spaniard says it’s too hot then you know it’s hot.

Diego Fructuoso from Team Telefonica commented that it was too hot to use his laptop during the day because of the sweat on his fingers.

It’s not the temperature; it’s the humidity he said. “At 95 per cent, it melts everything down to an uncomfortable salty sticky mess.

Hot and sticky
"It’s a wonder that all this electrical equipment still functions, but it does! It’s times like this that I thank Inmarsat that the connection is fast and efficient, so I don’t spend any more time down below decks in what’s become a floating steam room."

For a land lubber traveling through this area, it's just hot and sticky, with annoying thundershowers. For a sailor it’s a minefield of stop/start passing lanes.

Each thunderhead that forms from the hot air rising is watched very carefully by the sailing crews. They are looking for any signs that will tell them if the wind under it sucks or blows.

Darkening energy
The difference could mean a helping hand down the track from a stiff breeze or a slow drift in a torrential downpour. From a small dot on the radar, the humid air grows larger over just a few hours.

The mass of darkening energy can move miles forward, and sometimes even back again - like an aerial game of bumper cars.

If the outcome is no wind but torrential rain at least the pay-back is a fresh shower. Life on board resembles a laundry with the crew taking every chance to use the fresh water falling from the heavens to wash both body and clothes.

Limited squalls
If the outcome is wind then sails are rapidly changed and the equipment is stacked to eke every inch of boat speed and mileage from the limited squalls. 

Puma’s media crew member, Amory Ross said: "Since we entered this region of 'lost days' progress hasn’t been without its drama.

"Naturally, unpredictable weather has done its best to keep us busy, and tonight has been one of squall dodging and sail changing. Everyone’s tired.

Less relaxed
"It has also become uncomfortably hot below deck.  We smell bad enough as it is, but we now have the equatorial heat and humidity to make things worse," he explained.

"Clothes won’t dry, sleeping is hard, and life is generally less relaxed. The fans are on and the shirts are off!"

When I crossed this region last, we fell between the cracks every time. We didn’t get any rain or wind squalls.

Tapping fingers
We just drifted for days looking for a door out of the windless walled garden.  At least the fleet has had an eventful crossing and will be back in the southerly trade winds very soon.

With the front three boats so close together, the sailing action will come thick and fast. Diego’s laptop will be just as hot as before, but this time it will be from tapping fingers, reporting, blogging on the action, and sending us the news video and stills.

No comments:

Post a Comment