Hello Gryphon Solo Faithful,
Day 12 of the Transat Jacque Vabre race finds us finally past the Cape Verde islands and screaming south towards the equator. Thus far we have seen just about every weather condition - from the two storms at the start, to some very fast, big air downwind sailing, to the very light and fickle winds between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde's, to now back into the trade winds of 20 knots from the north east. We've used every sail in the inventory and have been tested thoroughly.
We remain in first place in the monohull 50 class, a position we have been in since the second day, when Artforms had to divert to Lorient , France to fix their torn mainsail. When they resumed sailing, we had about a 375 mile lead. That lead has been whittled down to about 230 miles over the last ten days as Artforms has been following a more westerly path that has provided stronger winds. We contemplated the westerly route when we were just even with the island of Madeira, but at that point Artforms was out of the race and our main concern was our sistership Vedettes de Brehat. Vedettes chose a more easterly route past Madeira and as we were in front of them, we gybed to cover them - or to place ourselves between them and the finish line. At that time, the weather forecasts showed strong winds across the corridor south. However, the forecast changed and the Western side of the course ended up having a lot better breeze than the eastern side and we narrowly escaped with our lead intact. Vedette was not so lucky and after being becalmed for a long period, they have been overtaken by Artforms for second place. Ocean racing is not always fair.
We are now focused on widening our lead over Artforms as we approach the Doldrums (the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ) where the clockwise rotation of the northern hemisphere winds meet the counter clockwise rotation of the southern hemisphere winds, causing light and fickle winds. The key is to get through this zone at the narrowest point and get into the Southeasterly trade wind flows which should propel us rapidly toward the Brazilian coast and the finish. The first boat through should be able to widen its lead as it hits the stronger winds first. The doldrums are a critical point in the race as many boats have "parked up" in maddening light airs and squalls, allowing those behind them to catch up. Right now the forecast looks pretty good for a fast passage through but as we know, forecasts can change quickly!
Life on board has evolved into a rhythm of driving, navigating, communicating, fixing, sleeping and eating. All boat systems are working well which is a tribute to our shore teams' preparation. Josh and I are dreaming about Salvador and the first meal ashore... but first we have serious business to attend to. No effort will be spared to achieve victory.
Cheers from Joe and Josh - Open Class 50 - Gryphon Solo