It’s going to be nasty out there. The latest weather report is suggesting winds of up to 60 knots and 15-20 foot seas. Regardless of which way the boats choose to go, north, south or through the centre, it looks like they will all be hit by the storm. Currently Sill Plein Fruit and Kingfisher appear to be taking a northerly route, while FILA and AlphaGraphics are going south, while ECOVER and Gartmore are on the middle track.
The weather today is deceptively calm, with winds of about 20-25 knots, with ECOVER’s Mike Golding reporting that they are sailing at about 20 knots under mainsail and Code 5. As they lead the fleet, they are taking the middle track in the fleet and Golding said, “The decision hasn’t been made yet,” whether to go north or south, and they are still looking at their options. “It depends how fast the system is moving,” he said. “It looks like it is moving at about 20-25 knots at the moment.” He is also aware that they will get the shift in wind first, which he said is “a loss not a gain” and will make the best of it.
In his latest log, Golding writes, “We are working hard to hang on whilst the decision as to whether or not to head on a northern route or try a southern route remains unmade. Any route which does not follow that of Kingfisher and Sill seems quite attractive. Realistically we need to consider what we will do if FILA, Gartmore or the AlphaGirls head south. For sure this would have an effect on our plans but the weather forecasting will still play a greater role in our choice. As the forecasts get more long range their reliability becomes very shaky indeed and so the gamble of leaving the shortest route becomes ever more risky.”
A very winded Brad Van Liew on Gartmore took the radio call this morning. “You got us right in the middle of a sail change,” he panted. He, like Golding, said that the front is moving faster than anticipated and they have not made a decision which way to go, which is evident from their middle of the track course. “But we don’t want to give much away,” he said. “We are all fired up,” he enthused. “It is great fun, and Josh is great fun, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Aboard the most southerly boat, Helena Darvelid, aboard the girls’ boat, AlphaGraphics said in her characteristically upbeat manner, that everything is fine on board and that they are trying to get west for the weather system. On board they are preparing for the onslaught, checking everything and she commented, “In the back of your mind you know there is something coming.” In the latest log, she notes “there is a slight tension on alpha since there is a storm brewing up and we are all preparing ourselves for a bit of a blow. Not that we are worried or anything but you should never take the sea for granted.”
Being the oldest boat in the fleet, the decision to go south is not just to do with racing tactics, but an effort to take care of the boat and crew, by trying to avoid the harshest weather. “We will stick with it unless something drastic happens,” she said.
The frustration on board Kingfisher was tangible as co-skipper Nick Moloney told of being stuck in the lee of the Scillies last night, losing crucial ground to Sill, which was further offshore. “Ellen and I have been pouring over the weather for the last hour and a half,” he said, “setting up for the low.” He said that they are cramming in as much sleep as they can and eating as much as they can in preparation for the next 24 hours. “We’re in pretty good shape,” he confirmed.
Ellen MacArthur’s log this morning told of the tension. “Well a beautiful though nervous feeling this morning, waiting for this depression to hit us. It’s incredible to think just how this confused area of low pressure will quickly whip itself into a meteorological bomb.”