• November 3 Update: Table Mountain Soon To Be Seen

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    NOVEMBER 3, 2014
    It’s a quarter to eight, somewhere in the Southern Ocean. A little over a 1,000 miles from Cape Town. In about 15 minutes Gerd-Jan “Johnny” Poortman starts his watch on a completely flooded deck.
    The waves of ice water splash through the cockpit and the men who are about to end their shift are wearing helmets. “Really feel like playing out there for four hours”, grumbles Johnny, usually a positive and funny character.

    He’s leaning on the hatch in the middle of the boat. The hatch is closed because of the heavy weather conditions: a nose-dive could throw you on the floor. “You know, maybe we don’t deserve to win from Abu Dhabi, the’ve been gaining on us already for 24 hours”, he says eating the last bite of his freeze-dried noodles.
    He puts on his weather gear, which is still wet, and zips his lifeline up. ”But we are gonna try; another four hours of headwind against the waves”.

    Stefan Coppers, OBR
    Team Brunel

    It’s a seriously difficult one and I apologize for the typos now. I think today I’ll keep this blog short and the reason being it’s very, very difficult to write at 32 knots. So here’s the run down in order of what fans we have out there:

    Firstly you hardcore sailing buffs; this is the Volvo Ocean Race and I see now why they take a good break between races. It’s conditions like today that both break you and make you. I have watched this race so many years now, probably since I was eight. I envied those guys, watching as the walls of water blasted across the decks, I thought, WOW! This is so dam cool, I wish I could have a go.

    Well here I am writing from the thick of it. The new Volvo Ocean 65s are more comparable to submarines, in fact today we probably were sailing faster under the waves than over. It’s so dam wet… I can describe and the video or photos don’t do it justice. I guess it will remain an experience best left to a first hand event. Seriously, we are absolutely sending the hell out of it; we had an A3 up, J2 and one reefed main. The speeds earlier where a consistent 25 knots in 22 knots of wind, (a building swell) we then peeled to a MHO, J2 and a reefed main (a much longer swell and bigger sea state now). We regularly see the clocks hit 30+ boat speed.

    Today I signed out the hatch to Nicolai what speed, he handed a three two back, ya just being very casual that we were doing 32 knots. All I can say to any Under 30 out there, do whatever you need to do to get on this race, it’s a once in a life time experience.

    Brian Carlin, OBR
    Team Vestas Wind

    Much like the anticipation for the arrival of the first big snowfall, for weeks we have been “patiently” waiting to arrive to the Southern Ocean—to sail in the fast, heavy conditions with the Albatross. Now it’s a reality and it’s like a dream come true for all of us. Coupled with the excitement of gaining hour by hour on the leading boats, we’ve been like little kids playing in the snow. Today, we’ve been on cloud nine.
    The waves out here are, as promised, relentless. Over and over again, cold waves crash over the bow, jumping over the cabin top, crashing into the cockpit, and bouncing off winches and sailors before heading back off the boat. Sometimes, when the foam splashes up it reaches five feet in the air. There’s water everywhere.
    We’re sailing with one of our biggest sails, the A3. We’re sailing in good pressure, keeping the boat averaging speeds of 19 knots. We’re surfing over and down waves. It’s simply amazing to be outside, sailing amongst the Albatross and other sea birds.

    Corinna Halloran, OBR
    Team SCA

    Every bright blue wave that Azzam punches through carries a huge wall of foaming white water rushing across the deck. It can’t be fought. One can only gasp for breath as the cold water takes your breath away and for a moment you’re underwater. Still, ripping across the water at 25 knots while leading the Volvo Ocean Race towards Cape Town, every wave is a reminder to the guys why they’re here in the Southern Ocean.

    For Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, there’s an efficiency onboard pushing everything forward. In the tough conditions, no energy is being wasted. Everyone is sleeping – or trying to – it’s a ghost town down below. Every moment you’re not eating or rehydrating you’re in a bunk.
    **Apologies for any grammatical errors. It’s hard to type right now!**

    Matt Knighton, OBR
    Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

    Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race
    The sustained 22-24 knots of the last 24 hours have been a lot of fun, there’s no question, but we couldn’t get south with it like the four leaders have, and they’ve stepped to the quick side of a nasty ridge of high pressure we’re desperately trying to outrun.

    Unfortunately it will overtake us--it’s inevitable--and when it does two things are fairly certain: we’ll watch the group to the south extend, and we’ll watch Mapfre and SCA compress from far behind. There’s a good chance we’ll be the “monkeys in the middle,” wallowing for a day or two in no wind while we lose big on both sides.

    Or, not. Weather models for this stretch of ocean are largely inaccurate with so few actual observations. And our far more direct course saves heaps of miles on the route to the south; if we can find some wind to the north, if the high shifts south, there’s always the outside chance we can sneak into South Africa ahead of the fleet. That’s the way we have to be thinking, at least. But for now, a few more hours of nice downwind sailing before the wind tapers, and quickly. Giddyup!

    Amory Ross, OBR
    Team Alvimedica

    From the moment the wind started to increase, during the night, we’re drenched. Waves over the deck, constant spray, damped hands because of the water, wet clothes, tired faces, and the cold.
    That’s what we’ve experienced on MAPFRE on November 2.
    Things came to life, and appeared in the most unusual places. A good example is my media kit, with the cameras, lenses and accessories – it appeared at 4 in the morning, on windward, at the bow.
    Francisco Vignale, OBR

    NOVEMBER 2, 2014
    Today was like one of those days growing up where your mom told you: “After school today we will go get ice cream.” Remember those days? Such a rarity; such a treat! Eight hours of school went by at a snail’s pace. You bragged about it to everyone on the school bus, at lunch, and in class. Your whole day revolved around getting ice cream after school.

    Today was like one of those days for us on Team SCA, except instead of ice cream it was wind and the opportunity to finally “send it.” (Send it: hand off the E-brake, pedal to the metal, full throttle sailing—fast, fast, fast). All day we talked about the coming wind and the low pressure we were supposed to catch, stay in and ride east towards Cape Town. It was the topic of conversation during lunch, on deck, and below deck at the navigation station.

    To say we’ve had just a bit of bad wind luck is an extreme understatement—we’ve had monumentally bad luck.
    However, as I type, the leaders are parked hundreds of miles ahead in 3-10 knots of wind (and expected to stay parked for at least nine hours), Alvimedica lost a lot of miles in six hours, and we are steaming along at 15knots, hopefully riding this low pressure for the next 24-36 hours. Whoa. Talk about the best ice cream treat ever!

    Corinna Halloran, OBR
    Team SCA

    Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race
    We are heading east, said Nico Lunven this morning. The wind is not really steady, 12 to 15 knots. This is our bearing unless a shift forces us to gybe. We’re expecting the wind to pick up in the afternoon.
    The last few hours have been calmed, we’ve seen a couple of albatross, and in the morning Ñeti and Anthony did some manteinance work on the keel. In the afternoon we got caught in a fishing net. Michael and Carlos managed to get rid of it without even touching it because it was full with squid hooks.
    In the afternoon the temperature grew colder, fog came in and so did the wind, which built up to 22 knots and stayed till dawn at least. On board we are all well, tired but still wanting to catch the fleet, we hope to get the chance to pass them. In the meantime, we keep sailing east.

    Francisco Vignale, OBR

    Imagine… You've just finished your watch. You’ve spent two hours in “standby” mode, fixing things, eating, and resting. And at last, you can enjoy your two hours “OFF”, meaning off watch, to fall in the arms of Morpheus… But in the middle of it, a guy comes shake you up, shouting:

    “Everybody on deck, we’re changing for the Mast Head!”

    You’ve three minutes to get dressed and go on deck to change sails. And if that wasn’t enough, Kevin had to go on the bowsprit. The whole thing drenched with cold, 10 degree water.
    Admit it – there are better ways to wake up.
    Then, the manoeuvre, the stacking that comes with it, and finally the right to go back to the bunk. Except that half an hour went by, and there are now only 20 minutes left before you got to go back on deck for your watch. That’s nothing. No luck. The following watch won’t be bothered. But Kevin and Wolf will have to wait for six more hours.

    Yann Riou, OBR
    Dongfeng Race Team

    As Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing chased the sunrise on the eastern horizon, the daybreak signaled the looming battle to come. A strong frontal system is forecasted that’s expected to drench the fleet in 30 knots of wind and push the teams through the final stretch to the finish.

    The speed was already building onboard and the quickened pace was breathing new life into Azzam after a light and shift night. The latest sked showed Dongfeng had made big gains in the South, effectively narrowing the lead to less than 10 miles.

    The competitiveness has jumped to another level on deck. The guys’ awareness of the situation is starting to grind into their daily rhythms. They know they can last 3 more days until the finish despite sleep deprivation and rest. It’s all down to who wants it more.

    Matt Knighton, OBR
    Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

    While we have ventured over to the north side of the 40 degree line its still getting colder. I can see my breath at night as I type my blogs and edit the videos. Poor Tom Johnson looks even colder every time I pass his bunk, he told me this morning he’s wearing everything he owns. I feel his plight; I too now wear almost all my available clothing. My feet feel the worse, well I can't confirm or deny that statement, as I haven’t had full feeling in them for a day now.
    The cold must also be affecting Peter’s brain, twice today he woke and attempted to put on his gear to go on watch, twice I told him go back to sleep. An early attempt at 17.30 turned into a second attempt at 18:30 where he had his socks on before realising he had another hour before he was required.

    Brian Carlin, OBR
    Team Vestas Wind

    The current 24-hour record for ‘distance sailed by a monohull’ was set on this stretch of ocean by Ericsson 4 during the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race. The running joke onboard yesterday was that we’d surely be setting records for “distance sailed,” just for the fewest. There’s no doubt it is unusual, the weather we’re seeing. That the High has settled so far south is the root of all this evil, and it impedes any consistency to our wanted, to our needed, winds.

    And so we wait.
    Amory Ross, OBR
    Team Alvimedica
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race started by PD Staff View original post