Pirates of the Caribbean, in second, struggle to stay in touch with leader

Position 41,8.50S , 52,35.54E

Speed 17 knots, Course: 82 deg

Very interesting day today that produced a lot of work for skippers and navigators. Basically the weather systems that we had been sailing in and planning on sailing for a few more days changed and we had to scramble to understand a new picture. The only ones exempt from this are ABN AMRO 1 who had just enough of a jump, 30 miles on us, to escape the front that swallowed the rest of us up.

Early this morning we slowly fell off the train ride. The wind started to drop in velocity and lift. Everyone knows the symptoms and knows what the ramifications are. Anyway as frustrating as it is to see one boat have the good fortune of a breakaway, it happens in ocean racing. This could be a race winner for ABN AMRO 1 as they will no doubt add 200 miles to their lead in the next 24 hours. We had the good fortune of this in the 97/98 race when we rounded Cape Horn with a 100-mile lead and turned it into 500 miles in three days as we skated off in good breeze while the rest of the fleet parked at the Falklands. However, there could be some tricky conditions awaiting on the Australian coast so it is never over ’til it’s over. But for now the guys on ABN AMRO 1 are feeling fat and happy.

We are having a good race with the ‘kids’ on ABN AMRO 2. We have been about 7 miles apart for the past 12 hours but never seen them. We have been in the front all day and it has been raining hard and extremely dense fog. Not very windy though; 10-18 knots from the south.

We past the first gate in the race this afternoon. The race organisers have placed two ‘gates’ in the course to prevent us from going too far south where the icebergs are. It is a good thing not to run through all the ice like we did in 2002 but staying this far north really changing the game. In some ways it is more challenging because if we were not up here we would be screaming along in the south-westerlies just making hay toward Melbourne and having a blast. Instead, we are up here trying to figure out if we are going to get hit by a secondary low getting spun out of this old decaying front. I was thinking that it may not be too far from here to go to the Seychelles which is a place I have always wanted to go.

Jules and I spent eight hours straight working through about 20 different possible scenarios today and running them through our software. We were trying to generate a model which resembled what we have in reality as the forecasts we got were not accurate. This is normal as the forecasts are based on models and models are not always accurate. The ones for the Atlantic are much more accurate because they are anchored with wind reports from ships but down here there are any reports to help tune the models. We finally got one were comfortable with then the next weather report came in and confirmed what we had figured out.

We are not out of the woods yet though as there is a secondary low spinning off the front and that could cause havoc for us if we get hit with its 40 knots north or northeasterly winds. Pirates, ABN AMRO 2 are trying desperately to catch back up to the front and cross to the south and east of the new low.
The models think we can do it but only time will tell. At the last position report, movistar had west wind so it looks like they are in the transition and possibly heading for the north side of the secondary low. We are further to the south east so we actually hope we get to see how they do on the next position report before we have to take the dive into the transition.

Other than that, things are normal onboard. Today was Anthony Merrington’s birthday so he got an extra birthday protein bar. We went through a few sail changes in the morning but have been riding the same sail now for eight hours. That is a nice stretch for the all of us to get a lot of other jobs done onboard, sewing torn sail bags, repairing the sink, fixing leaks, etc.
Sleep has been pretty good in the last two hours as we are not pounding much at all.

Speaking of sleep, I think I might just slip off and get some. When the transition comes, it will be a busy 4-5 hours for me.

Paul Cayard