Cheyenne is currently crossing the boiler room of the world's great weather engine. David Scully reports
These are times that try men’s souls, and Adrienne’s too. For the past 48 hours, the yacht Cheyenne has been picking her way through a maze of unhelpful weather patterns, running at half speed, frustrated in her drive to the last great hurdle on her global record run. Light winds keep her stuck in second gear, while her course objective is dead to windward. Squalls rip across the route, bringing sudden unruly gusts and blistering rain showers, then pass on, leaving a tail of light and contrary air.
We are crossing the boiler room of the world’s great weather engine. Here, the warm sea sends wet air currents into the troposphere in towering cumulus pillars, to be then swept north, cool, and dump rain on northern European weekends. Low pressure cells form, reform, wander, and fill, in a random and unorganized fashion, confounding forecasters, and hindering record setting sailors.
We have been running the gauntlet of these undisciplined little systems, and are still fighting our way to the trades. The boat lopes along at a tired, unfulfilled, pace, the daggerboards banging back and forth in their cases without the water pressure to keep them stiff. We are tacking on ten degree shifts, changing sails like a Volvo 60, scanning the horizon, hoping for the little white sheep clouds that signal the trades. The track made by the little green boat on the chart plotter has changed from long smooth arcs, to a drunken scrawl, and all the while the ghost ship Orange is closing the gap we have spent three quarters of the distance around the world opening. The crew is tired of looking at it.
Well, you get a bit of this on the big jobs, and one knows that all it will take to turn the mood around is another 5kts of wind speed. We are not hard to please. But we would like it NOW PLEASE, BECAUSE WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF LAUNDRY TO WASH! The WSSC does not offer a consolation prize for cleanliness on arrival in Ouessant.
Another couple of degrees to the good wind, but where a few days ago, we could rip off a couple of degrees in one watch, now they are the labour of a half a day or more. I offer puzzles in neontic logic to pass the time, but we are to the point that any more questions about Tom always telling the truth, and Jack always telling lies, will end in my having to swim to Brazil. So for the moment, we are lost in the latitudes of lift and drift.