Monday, 15 December 2008

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG TWO DAY 2 QFB: received 16.11.08 1837 GMT

by Matt Gregory (navigator)

I probably shouldn’t write this blog entry while I’m in a bad mood, however, I’ve been told that people think that my blog entries are better when I’m a bit overly emotional - which is, pretty much, all of the time. However, I prefer to write when my emotions are on the positive side, which is typically not a problem.

I’m a persistent optimist… but today I’m in a bit of a funk. For your entertainment value and in a way of doing some personal ‘venting’, I’m going to press on with my thoughts. This could be therapeutic since I can’t share these thoughts with the guys, since I want them to keep pushing the boat hard and don’t want my funk to rub off onto them…After all I did promise that I’d write this blog in a very honest and uncensored way... so, here it goes:

As a fleet, we have been sailing south into a nice, westerly wind. Last night there was an opportunity to make an aggressive tactical call. I would have preferred to be positioned to the south side (right) of the fleet, but it was a bit of a risky call.

The move would have involved a tack sailing away from three boats that were within sight of us- all sailing on our same tack. We played a conservative card to stay within sight of the boats along side us. This was part of our pre-race game plan; sail alongside other boats to do some performance benchmark testing. However, I’m a maverick and feel confident in making bold calls when I think that I’m right.

But to leave three boats and to sail on the opposite tack, away from the group, is a tough call to make... but then again, I was sure that tacking, and moving into the westerly position was the correct move. What to do? Go for the kill or stay with the fleet and test? We tested, while the Puma and Green Dragon hunted. As I expected Puma, Green Dragon gained about 5 miles as a reward for splitting with the fleet. Damn it!! That was ‘my’ move....gerrr. When we woke up this morning, we could still see Telefónica Blue, and Ericsson 3. Testing continued.

Throughout the day, the wind speed built through the high teens and into the low 20’s: a nice day of downwind sailing. We spent most of it with our A4 (the big masthead spinnaker) flying, and by gauging our performance on the boats around us, by visually seeing gains and loses on a real time basis since. Testing... testing… testing.

Then the wind built into the high 20’s. Too much wind for our A4. We had to switch to the A6: Code name ‘the lemon’. Test conclusion: This sail is horrible. Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 3 sailed out of sight and over the horizon. Testing complete.

This sail has a very narrow sweet spot. No, let me take that statement back. I think that I hinted that our A6 has a ‘spot’. There isn’t a spot at all. Our A6 would make a better tent than a high performance racing sail. Each sail, like a golf club, is made for a particular shot. The shot that we want to play is VMG downwind sailing in a lot of wind. This sail is ‘wallows’ at VMG angles…when you come up to give it power it becomes unstable. Furthermore, it forces us to sail an angle that we don’t want to sail (frustrating for a navigator). In the last position report, since we put up this sail, the fleet has gained between 2 and 5 miles on us.

In the next couple of hours, a cold front will pass us. With its passing, we will see winds increasing into the low 30’s and a dramatic wind shift to the southwest. This will change our trajectory from south east to east. As a fleet, we will be heading directly towards our scoring gate, which is about 1600 miles to the east. The forecast also shows that ‘the lemon’ will be flying for the next 48 hours. We hope that in the bigger breeze ahead this sail will develop a less bitter – ‘sweet spot’. Time will tell.

I’m sure that I’ll feel better tomorrow, both emotionally and physically. I’ve developed a cold over the past 2 days. It’s most likely a reaction to the five immunisation shots that I was required to receive, by racing rules, just before we left Cape Town. I have lost my voice, gained a fever, a headache and, generally, feel like ****.

Thanks for allowing me to vent to you. I can’t let the boys know how sick I am or how frustrated I am with this sail. As a team, we need to keep the boat moving fast and to stay positive. I know my emotions carry over to the team, so I’ll keep smiling, encouraging performance and personally, find the fastest path to India that I can.... It’s time for me to go up on deck to do some sailing.

Cough ... cough --- Smile.

Volvo Ocean Race

No comments: