Steve Hayles, navigator aboard Ericsson, with latest from the top end of the VOR fleet
By lunchtime today we will have been at sea for 10 days and have completed half the distance to Cape Town. What I really mean is that we have reduced the miles to the finish line by a half as, in reality, we have sailed many miles more to get here.
The ‘extra miles’ sailed on the second part of this leg will probably be even greater though; I expect to sail about 4,500 miles through the water to cover the 3,200 miles we have to go. It may seem odd sailing all his extra distance but the performance of these boats is extremely different depending on how much wind we have and what direction it’s from.
We could aim straight at Cape Town now and sail over a thousand miles less than I plan to, but at slower speeds. It’s not like there are two options either; there are an infinite number of routes within two extremes and inevitably one will be the fastest. It’s a difficult calculation to say the least (predicting the future has never been easy after all!) and we are managing risk, playing probabilities and trusting our pre-race analysis as much as we are looking at the actual forecast.
It will be a very interesting few days and I am sure that we will start to see much more separation between the boats than we have seen to date.
As to life onboard – well it’s very pleasant right now with very flat seas, a moderate 13-15 knot trade wind and slightly cooler temperatures. The last few days have been very hot and inside the boat it’s been uncomfortable and damp, but the sea temperature is dropping now and last night was a good night for catching up on sleep.
I had a long chat with Nelly (Neal McDonald) about short and long-term strategies and climbed in the bunk for the best four hours’ sleep I have had in a long while. For the first time this trip, sleep came easy and I would have slept for many hours more without the need to be woken up.
Everything else is good onboard, we are relishing a good battle with the two boats around us and very happy with the amount we are learning about our boat and how to get the best out of her.
I was asked in a couple of interviews today whether we thought we could catch ABN AMRO ONE to which the natural response is of course yes. If we both sail in similar conditions the whole way there it will be a tough ask although breakdowns and other issues are a constant possibility.
If however, the weather gods give us a break, with the separation as it is, very big changes can occur in a very short period of time. I heard Southampton were winning 3-0 at home to Leeds this weekend which is about as big a buffer as you could hope for and managed to lose 4-3 with four goals against in the last 19 minutes.
At half time we have a lot to do and it’s not as simple as a two boat race so we won’t be throwing all our men forward just yet. We feel confident and the team is very tight so we will wait for our chance and concentrate on the boats around us for now.
The first half has been great and I think the second half will be even better.