Frustration as Norwich Union parks

Tim Thomas and the crew of Norwich Union are at a low ebb:

‘Frustration seems to be the name of the game when it comes to ocean racing and sometimes it gets just a little too much. We have been at sea racing for four weeks and have experienced as many highs and lows as the weather that drives us.

‘Our latest low came in the early hours of this morning, when everyone is naturally at a low ebb anyway. After several hours of being parked with zero boatspeed, two Capsat position reports in a row sent morale plummeting. In 12 hours, we had lost 100 miles to the boats in the north.

‘Logica has sneaked 50 miles ahead after their dive north a few days ago, and now, as of this afternoon, Spirit of Hong Kong, a little south of us, has stretched its lead over us to 11 miles. This even though we have been tracking quite nicely most of the day under spinnaker, heading directly up the Great Circle to New Zealand.

‘Fortunately, it only takes an hour before the crew lifts itself once more. Although we are now 200 miles off the lead, we have the prospect of fair winds for a day or two yet, and some of the northern boats are starting to park as the centre of the low pressure creeps over them. We are not dead in the water just yet.

‘The Southern Ocean is proving to be a curious mix. We all expected, in the words of one of my fellow crew, “five weeks of sustained awfulness”, but were quite surprised with the first 1,000 miles dreamy sailing down the South American coast. When we were becalmed off the Straits of Le Maire 100 miles from Cape Horn, we could barely believe it, and then we had two big storms as we passed the famous landmark.

‘We thought that was the start of it all, but they didn’t last. Since then we have been becalmed, cold, windswept, warm, we have flown the spinnakers longer than any of us thought possible without going in the opposite direction, and we have climbed mountains of waves and drifted on the flattest of seas. But for now, as New Zealand draws closer, all we want to do is get in. We are all fed up with this racing lark; frustration is certainly taking its toll.

‘Of course, by tomorrow we will all be hungry again. We may have peaked a little too soon in the early part of the race, and lost the edge a touch. Now as we approach the final stages of the leg, we need to keep going and make sure we pull back the lost ground. The boats in the far north have lost 30 miles in the last six hours – it is the turn of the middle boats next. And when the wind comes round to the south-west, we will be in a better position to track up to NZ – for a while anyway.

‘Today we enjoyed the seemingly tropical temperatures on deck with just mid-layers and thermals. It is so nice to give the drysuit a rest for a while and to be riding on an even keel for a bit. Unfortunately, but somewhat typically, it has started to rain, so the oilies are back with a vengeance.

‘Tomorrow is the start of Food Fantasy Week. FFW begins as the leg draws to an end and revolves around discussion of the culinary delights that will be sampled first on arrival. After five weeks of the same menu of dehydrated food, it is a game that can lead to intense insanity, especially if FFW begins too soon; all we need is to get stuck in another hole, and people will be swimming for port.

‘The chocolate supply has also run out. We really need to get to Wellington soon.’