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Skipper's Logs Archive: Transat 2004



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Rolling dice to the south
June 10, 2004

When the boat is going fast, all is right with the world. When the boat is not moving, I descend into the depths of despair. It's pretty straightforward really, and unfortunately I've been getting significant doses of the slow and despair side of the program, which is testing my moral fortitude. Yesterday I decided after significant time spent analyzing the GRIB files, which are three day forecasts showing wind speed and direction overlaid on a chart on the computer, to head to the South for two reasons. First, I saw a band of northerly winds that would give me a beam reach as opposed to the southwest winds I was in, which were dead upwind. Second I was within 5 miles of Kip Stone on Artforms and was sucking his exhaust fumes as he accelerated away in the upwind conditions. If I stayed behind him, I knew his lead would slowly increase as he has both boatspeed and height on me to windward. If I could gain separation and possibly get to more favorable winds, I thought it was worth the risk of heading away from the preferred tack to Boston.

So, off I go. I sailed for about seven hours and arrived at the latitude and longitude that the weather file showed northerly winds at 10 knots and found nothing but a millpond. Flat calm. I cursed and kicked and swore and mainly just became thoroughly bummed out as I knew my plan was now screwed and I was going to lose a lot of ground to both Kip and the third place boat Okami. Sure enough, I "parked up" for about six hours of excruciating fickle winds. I experienced more than a few complete stops, the boat aimlessly doing 360s, which is enough to send anyone to the funny farm. This, of course, all happened between 3 and 6 in the morning, the time I am at my weakest and most want to sleep by my natural rhythms. It was not a pretty picture for a frazzled young Joey.

So I persevered, yet felt inordinately sorry for myself when I pulled up the position reports at 0700 and find Artforms has pulled ahead of by more than 100 miles and Okami has moved into second place. Talk about a bad move. I am anticipating at least another 24 hours of no wind as the GRIB file is showing nothing in my area. It was about time to put myself out of my misery, when suddenly a light breeze built from the southeast. I put up the gennaker and full main and we were suddenly pointing at Boston going 10 knots! Totally unforeseen. So now, three hours later, the wind is still holding steady because I have my fingers, toes, and all other appendages crossed for good luck, and am still moving well. I guess I've received a little gift from my friend Aeolus, God of Winds, very soon after he had punished me for no clear reason with my all-night park-up. Go figure. Just goes to show you there is still a large element of Mother Nature and dumb luck in the sport of ocean racing, and it pays to never give up because you never know what natural disaster might befall your opponent completely unexpectedly.

There is still about 900 miles to go to the finish and lots of weather and routing decisions to be made between here and there. Many opportunities to be either right or wrong. Old timers might say "just point her towards the barn" and let the chips fall where they may. But there is too much information out there to ignore these days, and you have to make the most educated decision you can. My decision last night goes down as a bad one, but this gift of the southeast wind today seems to have slightly evened the scales. There should be a strong band of northerly winds coming tomorrow that all three of us will receive so we'll have to see how we sort out. It definitely ain't over. My little gift breeze is going light now, so I must dash up on deck and convince it to stick around. Looks pretty damn calm in all directions. Prayers would be most appreciated.



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