Friday, 22 May 2009
The crew discuss their course on Delta Lloyd. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)
Gulf Stream games ahead of big winds tomorrow
“This sailing makes you want to do this race again.” The smile on his face is telling as Nick Bice comes down after an hour of driving. The sailing conditions are absolutely stunning. Downwind, 25-30 knots, flat water and a red morning sun. With water temperatures up to 18C even the gloves and hats are off. This is the North Atlantic showing its pretty face.
Not that I get to enjoy much of it. I am stuck in the nav station monitoring the movements of the big anaconda. With her movements very irregular, the Gulf Stream deals us different cards all the time: 2.7 knots of current with us, then minutes later only 1.3 without much warning. Sure, we have the latest satellite pictures with the sea surface temperatures, but that only gives a rough guideline as to where to look for the best current. The best tool is the water temperature gauge that shows the transition from colder to warmer water. The trick is to find a good patch of current and try to stick with it by following its temperature trail. The result: constant monitoring and not much sleep... but very cool!
The happy smiling face of the Atlantic is about to change. Soon we are going to see her other side. The one that sent many a ship to the bottom of the ocean, the one that demands our deep respect. We have seen that face, and it can be pretty ugly.
The warning is in that same beautiful morning setting. “A red morning, a sailors warning.” That warning sign is small but now clearly visible on the western horizon. A thin layer of clouds, steadily approaching and growing thicker. The weather models of modern technology confirm the sailors rhyme. They are predicting winds to build to 30 knots tonight and more tomorrow.
As we have known about the front for a couple of days, we have already made preparations for things to come. Yesterday we spent an hour folding the upwind sails into smaller packs, so that we can stack the boat more aft. The flat bottoms make these boats fast in medium and light air, but the downside is that they become ‘noisy’ in stronger winds. We need every kilo of stackable weight as far possible back as we can and we have made it our mission of the day to figure out ways to get even more weight back.
So all smiles covering worried faces as we are blasting our way towards Galway. Better get some good lunch in and enjoy the sailing on deck before it is all taking a turn for the worse. Keep your helmets ready, it’s going to be wet, we are going in!
Volvo Ocean Race