Around Alone positions may be having problems, but Golding doesn't understand why his boat speed is down...

Daily report 15.10.98

I had what I thought was a respectable days sailing only to find that I have lost horribly on the positions. The data coming from Race Ops has been totally up the creek for several days now and I am needing to manually plot positions to make any sense of it.

What I don’t understand is why, when I have a day where I make all the right sail changes and stay in good breeze, I keep losing miles. The boat clearly doesn’t like going to windward. I guess with the keel swung as ballast I lose too much lift and make leeway the daggerboards, which are designed to compensate for this loss, just are not efficient enough. Another factor is definitely the sail plan. I am currently sailing with just the staysail and either one or two reefs. It seems that I am overpressed with one reef and underpowered with two. What is needed is an intermediate reefing position (the spare mast is designed to allow this).

Team Group 4, like the other Open 60’s, is designed to sail on an eastabout round the world course, it is optimised for the average range of conditions but occasionally, like now, conditions do not fit the profile the boat was designed for. All I can hope is that we do not encounter too many headwinds on the rest of the route. When we are in “profile” conditions I am happy with the boats performance, she seems able to do as well or better as the other new boats – as always it a question of compromises in design choice – I remain convinced that Team Group 4 can prevail.

Another contributory factor is a distinct lack of weather information since crossing south of the Doldrums. Weather fax stations all over the world are shutting down as big ships increasingly get their information from other sources. Dakar and Rio have always been dodgy, not putting out product, either on time or even sometimes on the wrong frequency, but Pretoria is normally good – I must still be too far away.

PRB and I both tacked last night making some easting before we hit the coast and a more lifted wind. It seems the lift arrived far sooner than expected and Isabelle just got away on it. I have the shift now but it’s just a case of the rich getting richer at the moment.

I crossed the equator this afternoon, King Neptune didn’t see much partying – somehow it’s not the same without a crew to subject the wrath of Neptune on. However, not wishing to upset old “Nep” I have cracked (well almost as I forgot to bring a cork screw) a bottle of red wine for the occasion, a last minute gift from Katy Ackland of Comsat. I can hear my Challenge crew cries of “he never let us have bottles of wine!” but if we had we would have needed a wine cellar.