Battens fixed but continuing problems with autopilot. Robin Knox-Johnston explains all 16/11/06

Time and date0730 Thursday 16th November 2006.
Miles to go to Fremantle8139
Average speed in last 24 hours5.72
Distance travelled in last 24 hours137.3
PositionLatitude 00 45N Longitude 028 08W

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston continues to be plagued with problems during the Velux 5 Oceans Race. For now he has fixed the battens and hopes the solution will hold up, but he continues to have autopilot problems, which will be a real concern for entering the Southern Ocean. Sir Robin has been liaising by e-mail with his shore crew, who, through a process of elimination are hoping to get to the source of the problem. Here’s Knox-Johnston’s explanation of what’s been happening.

“A mixed day. I thought we had cracked the autopilot problem for almost two hours. I followed Lovely’s instructions (shore crew Simon Clay), traced a couple of wires right through the boat, disconnected one of them and the port unit fired up. I re-wired its ram and set it to work. Alas 1 hour 40 minutes later it repeated its previous behaviour and had to be switched off. I don’t understand why it can be OK one minute and then just lose it.

“Same old weather, almost calm interspersed by heavy squalls. A particularly vicious one created a complete white-out with driving rain. Not sure what speed it reached as I was dropping the mainsail when it peaked. It lasted an hour before the wind speed dropped below 25 knots and things became more orderly. When Lady luck frowns she can be a really foul!

“Still the splinted battens survived the kafuffle, which is good news.

“After the third of these heavy squalls the wind did not die away, it stayed at Force 4, so hoping this just might be a new wind I put up a bit more sail and we have been romping south-south-westerly. At this rate we will cross the equator around noon.”