by Kenny Read (skipper)
I have said many times that one of the keys to success, and sanity, is keeping an even keel about you and not getting too emotionally high or low. Last night was the exception.
After a 4000 mile drag race in which we admittedly did some good tactical moves and certainly a couple that we would take back if we could, we saw the opportunity coming to take advantage of a situation. Get right back into this race and really close the distance to the leaders.
It was time to gybe, but the timing was crucial. Believe it or not, we had been on starboard tack essentially the entire leg since just after leaving Rio. A big shift was coming and then the crucial crossing of the first of two frontal lines. But this one was going to include a patch of light air that was going to slow down the people in front to a standstill and, if we played our cards right, we could do some damage.
The tendency was going to be to gybe early, mainly because at one point port gybe became the closest gybe to the mark. In fact, we were in a nice position here because we could pick our time and not have to worry about another boat ‘jumping’ us towards the mark. We had a plan.
Essentially, the plan was to find the very shortest zone of light air, and even though we were going to sail a bit of extra distance, it would surely pay big dividends in the end.
Ericsson 4 and Telefónica Blue went into stealth as they were close to each other and we expected that to happen. That gave us a three hour position report to get to our gybe line. Which we did, and sure enough, everyone except Ericsson 4 gybed early. As it turns out Ericsson 4 gybed close to our line.
Anyway, after the gybe, we had some of the best sailing of the trip. We saw 34 knots of boat speed and in complete control (for the most part). Two scheds in a row of making up ground and, sure enough, big gains on Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 3 as they entered the zone of light air first.
Now, we just have to get through this skinny patch of crummy wind first. The first boat out wins, was my theory. And sure enough, Ericsson 4 came out of stealth right on our line and appeared to be through the zone. Now came the fight for second. At least for the time being.
It is the middle of the night, seven knots of wind and the masthead genoa making tracks to salvation, and a comeback is ready to happen. A little lull, followed by a bit more of a lull and a large black cloud over top. It will clear out soon. We have been sailing through little rain squalls for hours now. Come on. Any time.
After two of the longest hours of our lives, we start to move again. But during that time, the human being rationalises that everyone is in this mess and we just have to be a tiny bit better to get out first.
Rationale aside, the others were streaking away at 15 knots during those two painful hours. I said it before; you live by the sword and die by the sword. Last night we got stuck by the sword pretty good. And when the position report came out with the cold hard facts, the silence on board was deafening. All that work. I thought I had broken my hand on the mainsheet pedestal by slamming it so hard, but it was just a bruise.
Okay, now the big cliché. Time to regroup. It ain't over till the fat lady sings. Stranger things have happened. etc.
And if we weren't down enough, Mother Nature kicked us in the teeth with a second frontal passage with 40 knots of wind right on the nose, right next to the Gulf Stream. Nasty waves and a couple sail changes that no one likes to do even on nice days.
So off we go. Have to get going again, looking for any opportunity and sailing smart until we get one. Upwind for a while through the rest of the stream in 25 -30 knots of wind, which is about as unpleasant as it gets.
So, do I have anything nice to report? Not really. But I am coming round and about to get back on deck and have a go at it again. Everyone is disappointed but has shaken it off.
Time to get to Boston.
Volvo Ocean Race