Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Careful what you wish for

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Rob Greenhalgh at the helm  
Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race 
For the last few days the fleet have been struggling to make gains along the South African coast.
The stop/start routine was becoming very familiar, with the sea breeze forming further offshore during the day and then the night breeze overriding it nearer the land. 
This split the fleet on the first night - leaving Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing stuck in a windless hole while the others sailed away. 
Lack of wind
Luckily for the trailing fleet, the frontrunners didn’t find the going that easy. Without the low pressure to form a solid wind system, all the boats suffered both with lack of wind and the adverse Agulhas current. 
Reading the team blogs and news that filter out from the crews, they were all wishing for more wind. 
Well finally last night they got what they wished for. Winds up to 28 knots blowing against the current resulted in 4.5-metre (14.8-ft) waves.
Sickening crash
Travelling at over 20 knots, the boats have taking off over these waves, often landing with a sickening crash. 
Darkness did not make the situation any easier for the crews.
Puma caught a fishing net round the keel. They did well to work back to second place this morning, 20 nautical miles behind new leader Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Tense night
Abu Dhabi’s more northerly route close to the coast - avoiding the worst of the current for now - had paid dividends, but the night had been a tense one, Walker said.
“After making big gains on the fleet by hugging the coast we have been running hard all night in 20–30 knots with our big spinnaker,” he reported.
“Starboard tack was almost unsailable due to the head seas but port tack was fine – the only problem was we kept coming up against the land and having to gybe on to starboard!
Dangerous waters
“We made it through without breakages by slowing down and nursing the boat – we are now threading our way north-east between the land and the Agulhas current which we must soon cross.
“These are infamously dangerous waters and nobody really knows how bad the next 24 hours may or not be as anybody with any sense stays well clear of here.”
Mark Covell

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