Wednesday, 29 April 2009

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG SIX DAY 16 QFB: received 26.4.09 1335 GMT

by Guy Salter

Mid-morning local time and most of the lads on Ericsson 4 have not slept for the past 24hrs. The conditions are difficult to say the least. The cool water (7C) is stopping the upper air mix and thus we are often sailing on a glass surface. There can be one knot of wind at water level and 18 knots at the masthead - it gives a strange sensation as we cruise along at anything up to 14 knots boat speed on the perfectly flat ocean - one could almost call it the Volvo Pond Race, because that is what it feels like.

The problem arises from the quickly changeable conditions as the stronger wind makes it down as far as the water’s surface sometimes and you are constantly changing sails between the larger headsails and the code zero sail (masthead furling jib).

Plus the direction often differs - so throw that genoa staysail into the mix and it all equates to little sleep or rest for the boys on deck. We are at that difficult distance where it just isn’t worth trying to get any sleep as the end is in sight and the chance to see the friends and family and quench the thirst we have built up over the last few days.

To my surprise people are actually turning their noses up at chocolate - something completely unheard of on Ericsson 4 - but then apart from those birthday parties we all attended at the age of seven, where else do you get a staple diet of chocolate, peanuts and some cheese? In fact, all we are missing from the pre-teen celebration are some crisps (read - chips for you Americans) and some small sausages!

It’s pretty cold below deck - about 6C so like sitting in the fridge - another reason to stay on deck. We have just under 70 miles to go as we skirt the whale zone off the Massachusetts coast line. It’s been put in place to help the dwindling numbers of whales in this region - especially the Northern Right Whale.

You have to feel for this sea mammal as it has seen its numbers reduced by the shipping in the area as these slow movers often get struck. They are apparently totalling around 400 individuals and even their name suggests they struggle to keep up with human development - named the Right Whale as they are the ‘right whale’ to hunt as they are easily caught and have a good blubber yield, so float when dead!

It’s getting a little tense with four boats fighting hard for the three podium places - at this stage we lead them in but you can see your buffer reduce in moments in these fickle conditions - so it’s a real nail biter onboard. I just hope we can hang on - lots of sailing left until the finish - we hope we don’t make it too exciting for you! Sorry!

Dave has pulled his Red Sox hat out of his bag and was excited by the recent news of a victory over the Yankees, and everyone is really looking forward to getting off the yacht once more for what appears to be a relatively long stopover - so a good chance to recover and relax.

Stay tuned for the end result over the next few hours.

Volvo Ocean Race

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