Team Stelmar struggles with kite repairs and masthead problems in the Global Challenge, skipper Clive Cosby reports
Brisk tradewind sailing now after skirting around the South Atlantic high, and after a good first week a poorer run in these last days sees us a bit off the pace.
Tactically the game now is to get west of the Great Circle Route to St Peter and Paul rocks to set ourselves up with a better angle when the winds go lighter and more easterly nearer the doldrums. It becomes a trade, more miles sailed versus a better and faster sailing angle, and then the doldrums narrower the further west we go and so advantageous to cross there.
However with the St Peter and Paul waypoint to keep us clear of the northern South American shore we have all been steering more or less straight at them as the limit of our westing. Frustratingly the boats to the north went faster for no apparent reason, better wind or angles for a number of days taking thirty miles out of us.
We gybe on the shifts, not persistent nor predictable shifts and only a few degrees twenty at most, oscillating frustratingly back and forth. These are classic tradewinds. The clouds play their part, cumulus rising up during the heat of the day and then as the tops cool at night dumping cold air, often rain and gusts up to 28 knots as well as a shift in direction. It is not uncommon to find yourself careering along in front of a cloud lifted 30-40 degrees off course.
We have just had an additionally stressful 24 hours, a kite down after our 1.5oz blew in 15 knots during a gybe, doubly frustrated as boats on our horizon carried their same kite in over twenty knots. The repair is in full swing with a few panels to replace and over 120ft of tapes to let back in and stitch.
On top of that, in the middle of the night there was a bang from the top of the mast and the kite dropped a metre. We went forward to look and “bang” again we had to drop it. The masthead halyard block shackle had blown. The kite was held momentarily on the mast exit fairlead and now was bent around the mast exit. Flanker down a turbo pack by the off watch while we poled out the number one and then a re-hoist, 1.5 miles lost – good work guys.
Beyond that life continues onboard in stark contrast to the previous leg, downwind since the start with no foulies nor drysuits, only sun cream and hats. An altogether different sailing experience not unpleasant but there is something about the Southern Ocean that we miss – the awe and spectacle but not the cold and wet.
Clive Cosby – Skipper Team Stelmar