While the bulk of the fleet is being hammered by a storm packing 50 knot winds, Sill Plein Fruit has already broken out of the depression and is heading north in relatively mild conditions. During today’s radio call, skipper Gael Le Cléac’h reported winds of 25 knots out of the northwest, saying that during the night the winds were very light, barely 15 knots.
In contrast, Kingfisher’s Nick Moloney reported eloquently, “It’s getting pretty gnarly out here.” They have punched through the centre of the low and are ” seeing the brunt of the back side [of the depression].” He sounded breathless, as the rest of the crew up on deck were busy putting the third, and final, reef in the main. They had just completed what Moloney said was “the hardest headsail change” they have done.
Presently Kingfisher is sailing without wind instruments and, as Mark Turner pointed out in the daily log, “Technically, we only have one major problem at present, and that is once again a total lack of wind information on the instrument system – more of a problem at night. Think the wand at the top of the mast has failed… maybe when it’s quieter someone will climb up to repair it. Until then we are working in ‘Mini Transat’ mode – basic navigation by feel, none of the digital age here for now!”
Two hundred miles south of Sill, Mike Golding’s ECOVER had mainsail problems and had to drop the main to repair the leach line. Golding put it mildly, saying “it’s very irritating and difficult in these conditions.” He commented that it is getting increasingly uncomfortable, and that he didn’t think conditions would improve for another 15 hours.
Although not able to raise Gartmore this morning, the logs from the boat are very descriptive, and if viewers didn’t know better, one could almost believe that the boys are out for a joy ride. “Boat speed sat on 20-26kts for a wet and exciting sail. Plenty of whooping and cheering from the guys as our machine reveled in perfect conditions.” Yesterday evening they sent out a “Speed Alert”, notifying the world that they had reached a top speed of 32 knots.
Besides having fun on board, they are sailing hard. “When the wind steadied at 40kts true we decided to swap out the genaker for the solent.” Skipper Josh Hall goes on to explain how different sailing with a crew is, compared to his solo sailing. “This manoeuvre would have been virtually impossible solo, but with a great crew we did a faultless change. This for me is one of the big differences between sailing the boat solo and with a crew – we can hang on to sail area through a much greater wind range, and the risks of sails going in the water and things going wrong are greatly diminished.”
Currently in fourth position on distance to finish, Gartmore appears to be taking a middle of the road approach. “Sill would appear to have made it over the depression and if so will have great boat speed for the next two days. ECOVER has perhaps played the southern depression game the best,” said Hall, applauding Golding. Always the joker he said, “maybe I should protest him about that, us and Kingfisher are in the middle, with FILA, always a danger, lurking not far away. The girls have opted for a southerly route which is no bad plan at all ….. the boat race is back on.”
The two southernmost boats, FILA and AlphaGraphics are hoping for a little less harsh weather, although Andrea Scarabelli of FILA said, “It is uncomfortable for sure.” They are opting to stay where the headwinds “are less strong,” and will continue for now on the middle route. Despite the wind howling at 40-45 knots out of the northwest, Scarabelli always has a happy voice and always says “Everything is fine.”