Having swung wide around the Cape of Good Hope, Doha 2006 consider their options as a tropical cyclone threatens ahead - Thompson sent this report

Brian Thompson and his crew aboard Doha 2006 are powering along in the Indian Ocean, well ahead of Tony Bullimore’s Daedalus, the only other contestant taking part in the Oryx Quest. At the 07:00 GMT poll on Monday morning 21 March, Doha 2006 was 185 miles due north of the Crozet Islands, in the Southern Ocean.

Brian sent this report to yachtingworld.com today:

“Perfect conditions for the last 24 hours on Doha 2006. We are heading eastwards in perfect seas and 18 knots of wind, doing 23 to 24 knots. Skies are clear – the fog has lifted now that the water temp is up to a searing 8C or 48F. We could be sailing down the Solent now, the seas are so flat, but it’s a Solent that is 600 miles long!

“We are travelling in the wake of the high pressure system that is giving us the calm seas, but tomorrow we are going to have to pay in terms of light winds as we catch up to the high. We can negotiate that, albeit slowly, but the next weather system, the tropical depression over Mauritius (or Maurice in French), is already absorbing a lot of our nav thoughts, and it’s something we want to avoid. We are trying to get as much easting in as possible now whilst we can so as to set up for that next system.

“It’s just a tiny blip on the satellite picture at present but in each forecast run it is becoming a more significant feature, and there is now a ‘fair’ chance it will develop into a cyclone.

“This system is going to park directly over Mauritius, which is a port hand turning mark of the course. That means on the east side of the depression there is going to be very strong northerlies that would not be safe to go through, and on the west side there will be southerlies, but that would mean missing out the turning mark of Mauritius. The only option is therefore to go way out to the East and leave the whole system to port. It’s a tricky one as outside the system there is going to be very light winds and so it’s going to be hard to move out of the way if the depression starts to do the unexpected. Of course there is a 50/50 chance that the depression does not form into anything major, but at this stage we are ‘preparing for the worst and hoping for the best’. I did ask the Race Committee about changing the course to miss out on Mauritius and to go round Madagascar instead, but not surprisingly this was rejected.

“We are working very hard at the nav station with Will and myself, with input from our weather router and getting all the advice and opinions that we trust to get through this light air and around the depression before it could blow up into something significant. So never a dull moment, it’s maybe all serene on deck at present but there is plenty of activity below and our Geolink iridium phone is in constant use downloading every map and model that there is. Will and I have not had much sleep over the last 36 hours, but right now things are steadying out. Most of the information is starting to come into agreement, so we are able to catch up on some rest. No doubt in six hours it will all change again, but for now we are doing good speed in the right direction, not on course for Doha but getting into a defensive position for the future.

“Saw a 50-foot whale yesterday in the fog, and that was a spectacular sight. It was moving in a very leisurely fashion to the south west, probably deep in conversation with a friend a few hundred miles away. I don’t think it even noticed us. When I get back I will have to look up its species, it seemed to have two distinct humps on its back. We passed the Prince Edward Islands one hundred miles to our south and next it will be the Crozet Islands.”