Conrad Humphreys, skipper of LG FLATRON, is back in the lead and into the Trades. And from here on, bold strategies won't bail out yachts that are off the pace, he reports
Race leader Conrad Humphreys reports from BT Challenge yacht LG FLATRON:
As I write this, my team are taking some well-earned rest after a punishing few days fighting both Hurricane Michael and Nadine. We are now into the Trades, which will carry us away speedily towards Cape Branco off the Brazilian coast.
This year the National Hurricane Centre predicted 11 named hurricanes. So far we have just had 18 and there is still a chance of a few more. On leg 1, the fleet’s chance of not meeting at least one major storm seemed slight, and yet we did just that, even with five hurricanes active during the crossing.
On leg 2 we have successfully dodged Micheal and spent the last 24 hours explosive sailing downwind on the western side of Nadine. Sailing in prime hurricane season has certainly added some extra flavour to ‘The World’s toughest yacht race’. For skippers in the next race, I would recommend some heavy weather downwind training, as surfing hurricanes in a 40 tonne Challenge yacht at full pelt can be a heart-stopping experience.
The small jump we have made on the fleet since this morning is no surprise. As we approached Nadine, we worked out a route that would see us cross behind the storm and into the Trades. It is rewarding when a tactic works out.
We have been perplexed at why the boats in the west have seen so much pressure. It is unlikely that anyone will make a big jump for the next 1,500 miles as we power along in fairly consistent easterly Tradewinds. Race two now begins.
We have split this leg into a series of shorter sprints, each one requiring different strategies, different sailing skills and also a different mental approach. For the next 1,500 miles the gains will be down to boatspeed and these equate to helming, trimming and weight. All areas for improvement.
No longer will a bold strategy bail out an off the pace yacht. One-design racing in a fleet as matched as these can be a cruel sport if you’re not on the pace, and certainly the next 1,500 mile sprint will show up the yachts that lack speed.
The storms over the last few days have taken their toll. Bruised bodies and a damaged kicker have caused us to ease back a little. Last night we poled out a No 2 with two reefs in 40kts of wind. It was a fairly conservative sail plan, but with one bowman badly bruised from being washed into the forehatch and a few other weary faces, it was time to throttle back.