Although Tony Bullimore and team aboard Daedalus may just miss a massive tropical depression which is bearing down on them, they're still in for a rough time
The Oryx Quest is rapidly becoming a high stakes game of cat and mouse as Tony Bullimore and his crew on Daedalus head for the Mauritius turning mark while a massive tropical depression bears down on them.
The severe low is located 600 miles to the north-east of the boat moving at approximately 10 knots on a course that will take it directly over the island of Mauritius. Tony and his team are due south of Mauritius sailing at 20 knots with just over 300 miles to go to the tiny island.
Daedalus averaged between 17 and 21 knots through the night. If they continue at that pace they should reach Mauritius around midnight boat time Monday night by which time the center of the storm would be almost 200 miles closer to the island. There will still be a gap of around 200 miles between the center of the storm and the turning mark meaning that Daedalus will not feel the full brunt of the gale force winds. They will however, have some very severe weather to contend with. The dangerous winds appear to extend at least 400 miles out from the low and Meteo France, the official weather experts providing detailed forecasts for the race, are predicting winds gusting in excess of 60 knots for the region. The only consolation is that the wind will be from the astern and the crew will have to be well reefed down and hanging on tight.
“It’s going to be close,” Tony reported in a satellite phone call. “This is a very severe storm and it’s packing a punch. We do not believe we are taking any chances by not taking any avoiding action, but it will be rough on board for the next day or so until we are north of Mauritius.”
Once the mandatory turning mark has been left to port, there will be a little bit more sea room for the boat and crew although it’s not going to be all easy sailing. The water north of Mauritius is littered with shoals and the island of Madagascar is just over 500 miles away. Beyond Madagascar there are more shoals and then the entire Seychelles archipelago stands in the way. Fortunately by then there should be sufficient separation between the boat and the storm and the conditions will be more moderate. Although it’s not expected to be any problem for Tony and his team, another tropical depression is forming to the east, forecast to follow a similar track as the one now causing much anxiety on board Daedalus.
Two thousand miles to the north of Daedalus, the only anxiety on board Doha 2006 is the amount of food left on board for the remainder of the trip. Several factors, including errant high pressure systems and a tropical depression have extended the amount of time on the water and the provisions are running low. Fortunately Brian Thompson implemented food rationing two weeks ago and the supply may just last until the dunes of Doha come into view. It’s nowhere near critical as Thompson reported in his daily log. “So our trip may take a little longer than expected but all is good on board,” he wrote. “It’s easy sailing for the boat, so no great wear and tear until it gets windier. We are slowly closing on the finish and we have loads of diesel left on board to make water and electricity. Dinners and lunches are still being rationed by a quarter so we will have enough food till the finish. Jonny (Malbon) just checked our diesel levels and after looking at our distance sailed so far, 24,000 nautical miles, and our fuel used it indicates that we have travelled 290 nautical miles to the gallon! Land miles would be nearly 330 miles to the gallon. And for our continental cousins that works out to 1.28 litres per 100 kilometres. We are probably being the most environmentally friendly that we have been in our lives.”
At the 07:00 GMT poll on Monday morning Doha 2006 was 425 miles away from the entrance to the Gulf of Oman. They are moving steadily, sailing on course with the instant speed reading showing a not too shabby 16 knots. While the finish is tantalizingly close, there is still a lot of tricky sailing ahead. The Strait of Hormuz is no easy body of water to navigate. Strong currents rip around the hairpin bend say nothing of ships, oil rigs and gas drilling platforms. These last few days may have allowed the crew to catch up on their rest, but the next few are going to take their toll especially on Thompson and his navigator, Will Oxley. For the rest it will be the final few nights on deck scanning the horizon for dark clouds and dreaming of life after the Oryx Quest 2005.