Sunday, 22 March 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 36 QFB: received 21.03.09 0835 GMT

Andrew Mclean with a swollen fist onboard Green Dragon, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

‘We lost 43 miles to the fleet.’ Not the kind of message I like to come on deck with for the boys, but today it has been the harsh reality that as a navigator you have to deal with. Waving a white flag and phrases like ‘don`t shoot the messenger’ are pretty much of no use, the crew is going to take it out on you. ‘Nice mess you got us into, Wouter.’

Yes, it is a real mess, but a case of choosing your poison. Take a big hit now, or tay east and take an even bigger one 12 hours later was pretty much the choice.

The stretch from the Horn to Rio is really living up to its reputation of providing us with a complete minefield of light winds, erratic weather models and unexpected twists. It really is a game of snakes and ladders out here, with big gains and losses on the scheds being the order of the day.

Already far before Cape Horn, we have worked hard on our mindset for these last 2000 nm. It is all about short term plays, being aggressive in the strategy and sail changes, and making a huge effort to sail the boat as hard as we can. The intensity is high as everybody realises that a few miles gain or loss can be the difference between jumping through a weather window or missing out on one.

Today we have missed a window with the high pressure that has drifted across the course, with Puma only five hours ahead of us just making it through, and us getting eaten by light winds. It is hurting us badly.

Opportunities, however, lie ahead, with a small low developing of the Argentinean coast. We are already feeling the effects of it as winds are more lifted than in the model. It is only in the satellite pictures that we are picking up this little feature, but it could be a nice ladder for us to gain back some of those precious miles.

When restacking the boat earlier today, the urgency of getting to Rio clearly presented itself to me with the number of food bags now reduced to two plus a small spare. With each bag providing two days of food, a hungry last couple of days are now pretty much a given. Hope that ladder is a good one, we will need it.

Volvo Ocean Race

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