Paul Cayard skipper of VOR yacht Pirates of the Caribbean sent this report at 0455 this morning while leading the fleet to the first Ice Gate 24/2/06
This is the first time I can remember heading north in the Southern Ocean. North is just not a normal heading out here. East is the heading you want or south-east.
Well, we are heading north and not for just a little while; 24 hours of it. This detour will add considerable time to this leg. It was a bad coincidence that the high pressure ridge was right between Wellington and the ice waypoint and that we had to go so far south to get here. But that is the way it is and we should be around this thing in 15 hours and blasting out east toward the second one.
The reason for the ice waypoints is to keep the fleet out of unduly dangerous ice situations. Last race, 2002, we had serious ice for eight days. That was ridiculous and dangerous. So, while it is a bit painful to do these extra miles, I think we are all happy to have increased our chances of getting to Rio.
When we started this leg we were given a radar ice survey of the Pacific and there were four ‘targets’ in the area we are going through now. Well, last night we saw two of them; big steel ones. As you could imagine, there was not a good chance that there was ice at 50S with sea temperature of 10C. They were large fishing boats I assume, 300 feet long. One tried to follow us for a while?kind of eerie?but gave up the chase after 20 minutes.
Today we had a few events onboard. First we had an oil leak. We carry 35 litres of spare hydraulic oil for our keel rams. Everyone does as the rams are fundamental to the operation of the boat. The ‘breather’ on the spare oil tank somehow came loose and a few litres of oil leaked into the bilge.
As you probably know, a little oil goes a long way. Erle Williams discovered it and he and I cleaned it up. It was a long job, slipping and sliding around in the leeward bilge with paper towels and toilet paper, trying to wipe this stuff up. Hopefully, using up a lot of toilet paper won’t come back to bite us in the ?
Then our radar bracket started breaking off the mast. We have been slamming a fair amount today as the wind is from the north-east and we are heading north on starboard tack. The waves are large from the left over tropical depression that is decaying north of us. Juggy (Justin Clougher) had to go up the mast and get the bracket down so we could put more carbon on it to beef it up.
While we came leaping off one wave, I was in the process of pumping some
water through our galley sink. We have foot pumps and there is a special floorboard that the foot pump is mounted into. Anyway, as we crashed off the wave, the pressure of my weight crushed the flange that keeps the little floorboard in place. There you go, another one-hour job for someone.
It is amazing how much goes on onboard, apart from the racing. There is constant maintenance programme and there is the race. That is why you have to be very disciplined and stay ahead of the game with both the sailing, like sail changes, etc, as well as the maintenance. If you get behind, things snowball and you have a real mess.
As far as the race is concerned, we are doing well; amongst the first three. The GRIB is not accurate today so Jules (Julian Salter) and I spent a lot of time analysing satellite pictures and taking the depression and then projecting its path to find out why the wind is not lining up with the GRIB. Basically, we have the wind much more from the east than forecast. This is ok with us as we are the eastern boat of our group. Also, there should be more pressure in the east as we enter the last of the ridge. However, the transition from the north-easterlies to the new north westerlies will be another tricky spot where a lot can happen. It will take place tonight, most likely, in the pitch black darkness as there is no moon anymore.
Just got the 0400 sked. We are doing very nicely out here on the east. We have more wind and we pulled 10 degrees of bearing on movistar and ABN1.
During the past six hours, we ‘put the hammer down’ and reached a bit more using our easterly position and more wind to gain bearing and distance to the mark on them. I don’t know how it is presented on the Volvo site but the way we rate the boats is on distance to the eastern point of gate 1.
The Black Pearl is eight miles closer to that point than ABN1 and 17 miles close than Movistar. Very tight race indeed. The wind is starting to drop now so it will be difficult sailing at night in this big seaway without much wind and no light to see.
It is real foggy and drizzling. Murky.