Skipper's Logs Archive: Transat Jacques Vabre 2005


Swift Doldrums Passage, Swift Repairs
November 21, 2005

Skipper's Log Entry #1

Our passage through the infamous doldrums was swift but not without pain. Our north easterly breeze just kept on coming for us as we descended due south through the region passing through increasingly thick and evil looking cloud cover. One really senses this place, there is something dark and brooding about it - the forces of nature colliding perpetually where northern hemisphere rotations meet there southern sisters. The best tactic is to keep the compass on a south heading to traverse the area as rapidly as possible - south, south, south. Its tempting to go off on a screaming reach as the winds increase ahead of each squall but other than a quick run off to re-gig sails for the increased wind, its back to heading south.

The doldrums saved their best till last for us with a massive black squall line guarding the exit door... it rained like there was no tomorrow, not cats and dogs but elephants and rhinos. The wind increased to a dense 20+ knots and swung around the compass constantly causing havov to our late afternoon tea and biscuits.

Two hours late we popped through the squall's skirt tails and were greeted with a steady south easterly breeze... our current holy grail was found - the south east trade winds and the fast track to the finish line. Through the ups and downs of the day we had lost 100 miles of our lead but we also knew that Artforms and Vedette would have to get through the area as well while we gassed along re-building our lead. At least that was the plan but then we saw that the solent headsail - our workhorse sail for the ensuing 1500 miles had a huge tear in the leech. It was getting dark and a big squall was descending so after going aloft to inspect the damage we decided to roll her away for the night and set the staysail with full mainsail. Our progress through the night was steady but a bit slow and though exhausted from the busy day we both had trouble sleeping - anxious that we were not able to crush the mushroom down the track.

This morning we put our repair plan into action. We laid up a pseudo 3dl patch ( no lawsuits please) with sticky back dacron making a sandwich of some stranded vectran line we have onboard. I then went aloft to the top spreader where the damaged leech arrrived with the sail unfurled. An hour later the patch was sikaflexed and sewn on and we were back in action which is more than I can say for my legs which had lost all feeling in the blood-blocking harness that I was strung up there in.

We sailed a bit soft for two hours to let the sika cure and bond the repair into one which is strong and then put the helm down and powered the red rocket back onto course. As of Monday we have 1000 miles to go and hope to arrive Thursday or Friday.

- Josh Hall

Skipper's Log Entry #2

A true red letter day today. We crossed the equator soon after dawn and have subsequently been sailing in a stable south easterly, on course at 11-13kts. The forecast wind is similar through to our finish. A large seabird has been with us all day treating us to his dive-bomber style of fishing. At lunch time we celebrated our line crossing with the bottle of champagne provided by Mumm, mixed with juice from the last of our oranges... a bucks fizz that ensured we both had good siestas this afternoon. We are very comfortable with our lead at present and feel in good control of the race. The Open 60 Artech is around 40 miles to leeward of us and we seem to have similar speed in these conditions so we may have a close finish with them. Maybe they have some problems onboard - they are two excellent young sailors and I am sure they are learning a lot on this race.
Artforms look as though they have a real fight on with Vedette - Servaine and Bertrand have been sailing an excellent race and we hope that Servaine will succeed in securing sponsorship for an on-going program... I believe she is the new Isabelle Autissier of sailing - bravo. We are currently 770 miles to go and are looking at an ETA of Thursday night/Friday morning... hopefully in good time for the TJV party friday night.
I think its fair to say that we are ready to arrive and have a big plate-full of meat and veg and some decent wine and to see Laurent and other shore crew for some laughs... they leave tomorrow for Salvador, amazing that they will do the trip in 12 hours when it will have taken us 3 weeks... these aeroplane things may well catch on one day!
- Josh Hall

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