Saturday, 7 March 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 21 QFB: received 06.03.09 09:42 GMT

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

"You have to go through the centre."

St. Malo, November 2002 and I am onboard Francis Joyon`s trimaran. Together with French navigator Jean Yves Bernot, I am visiting the boats we will provide with weather routing for in a French solo race across the Atlantic.
The weather outlook is terrible and we are discussing storm strategies to get his trimaran safely across.

On a used bit of paper Joyon draws a circle, puts a big "L" on it and draws his proposed route to deal with the low pressure, "Straight through the middle. It is the fastest and safest way."

Now seven years later I am thinking back to this moment as we have to deal with the monster that is approaching us. Head seas and storm force winds. How are we going to keep the boat together and at the same time beat the other guys?

Francis is an amazing yachtsman, so when I was sailing with the American 90 foot maxi yacht Rambler two years ago, we tried this strategy on a monster low in the Atlantic. We avoided the strongest headwinds and found shelter in the centre.

This should work in the South Pacific as well, right?

So if you are following our track, it is no madness, on the contrary we are aiming for the very eye of it, on purpose!

Sounds simple maybe, but let me tell you, we are preparing the boat and ourselves for war in the next 24 hours. Everybody is checking his personal gear, the stack is secured extra well, the generator is being tested, we have made plenty of water and have lots of snacks at hand. This is not going to be a lot of fun.

Down in the nav station Ian and myself are monitoring the development of the low. The strategy will only work if we hit the centre perfectly, so we are tracking its progress with satellite pictures and grib files. Of course the bloody thing keeps changing its mind all the time, but we have him locked in our sight.

The guys on deck are anxious to know the timing of events, so we are constantly updating them with expected max winds and what time we will hit the first front.

So cross your fingers, and we are going to have a good wind angle in and out, and can start making quick miles towards Cape Horn. About time!

Volvo Ocean Race

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