Conrad Humphreys enjoyed a good sleep last night doing 28kts with his Code 5 up!
The Transat Race Organisation is predicting that the leading Open 60 monohulls are set to break the existing race record of 14 days, 16hrs, 1 minute set by Yves Parlier in 1992, if they arrive this weekend in Boston, USA.
At 1100 GMT, Hellomoto was back in 5th place 17m behind Skandia after an eventful 24hrs locked in a duel and in sight of each other. However, both boats have now slipped 50 miles back on Ecover (Golding), Pindar (Sanderson) and Temenos (Wavre) as they tried to cut the corner on the high pressure to shave miles off these leading boats. With such close racing and over 750m to go, the leader board could still change.
Conrad tells the story of his mid-Atlantic match race (see photo left): “Yesterday was so frustrating for us both. Nick came up to cross the corner of the high pressure, there was a small chance to get through but then we were both becalmed for 5-6 hours. The top boats then went off, and Skandia and Hellomoto were racing side by side about 100 metres apart. We spent the whole time just trying to out-manoeuvre each other, neither of us sleeping or eating. I spent a lot of the day also repairing the staysail pocket, and saw Nick was also dealing with his own problems, and at the end of the day he called me up, we were both exhausted and talked about our frustrations at being becalmed after busting a gut to catch up the leaders.”
Today of all days, Conrad is indebted to his autopilots as Hellomoto carves up the Grand Banks surf at ridiculous speeds, icy cold water spraying over the deck, the sound of rushing water so deafening, he’s hardly able to think.
Sailing solo, as Conrad is learning, is a relentless task and you can never have enough rest. In fact, Conrad gave himself the biggest shock last night; he rang in on his satellite phone today to recount his scary and amazing night.
“The wind filled in around 2330 GMT last night and Skandia and Hellomoto were back up to 12-14 knots racing side by side. I put up the Code 5 – the most powerful headsail onboard – and thought I’d cat nap in the cuddy just in case as the wind was building to 25 – 30 knots. The next thing I was conscious of was waking up over two hours later just in my underwear, but fully in my sleeping bag, with all my clothes in a pile swilling around in the bilges. I had that dry, nauseous feeling in my mouth and then sheer terror hit – I ran up on deck still in my underpants and saw that Hellomoto was going at 28 knots boat speed and the Code 5 was still up!
“It was the biggest scare I’ve given myself, I was completely out for two hours. For a split second I was totally convinced someone else must have been driving the boat, as I had no idea what had happened in that time. I had to tell myself ‘Conrad, this is not OK, get the sail down!’, and then dropped part of it in the water and so spent an hour putting it on deck. That’s where Nick sailed into the lead. I realised later that I must have gone into sleep walking mode sitting in the hatchway and put myself to bed unconsciously. Given what happened to PRB, we could have been the third rig casualty in this race if it wasn’t for my amazing autopilots – I could kiss the guys at B&G!”
Hellomoto is now doing what she was built for – surfing at speeds reaching 24 knots under reefed mainsail and genoa, and thankfully looking after her skipper as he hangs on for the ride across the corner of the Grand Banks. Conrad is surviving on energy snacks and hasn’t got a single dry piece of clothing left. “It reminds me of surfing off Exmouth beach at home, but the Grand Banks are 500 miles long – I’d pay money to do this every time!” he concluded.
The Open 60 fleet faces a painful beat upwind to Boston in a decreasing north westerly breeze followed by an increasing south-westerly. As the small low in the north western Atlantic moves east, the next is forecast to form to the north of the fleet, with building high pressure to the south. Soon the lighter winds shall be replaced as early as this afternoon by a warm and increasing south-westerly between the high and the new low.