Thursday, 11 June 2009
Sunset cruising onboard Telefonica Black, with Ericsson 3 on the horizon, on leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Galway to Marstrand. Image copyright AntonPaz/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Roger Nilson (navigator)
Onboard Telefónica Black we have been going through three very hectic days, the last day more so than the others.
Sleep management has been an issue and I can hardly recall a race with less sleep. No hallucinations, but having a hard time to remember certain simple things. The intensity of the racing has been high and have left very little time over for ‘charging our batteries’.
When we approached the Channel Islands, it was obvious that we had to face some nasty foul tide, in order to stay in some descent wind pressure. At the SW corner of Alderney Island we were still ahead of Dragon. The question was, should we pass through the nasty Alderney Race east of the island, or go through the gap close to the north of Alderney, south of a bunch of nasty rocks...? Both alternatives risky.
We decided to split gybes with Dragon and let them go into the infamous tidal race east of Alderney and we stayed close north of the island.
What I did not know was that the tidal race immediately north of the island was as bad as Alderney Race. Suddenly we were caught in a tidal river, gybing back and forth in the 1000 metre passage, between rocks. The ripping tide going against us gave us the extra apparent wind to make progress. One missed gybe and we could be have been thrown upon the rocks. The tidal race brought up some scary waves that picked up the stern of the boat and kicked us around.
Well clear of the island, we saw the topmast navigation lights of Dragon a mile or two ahead. They had won this little battle but we passed them again just north of Cherbourg...
The passage of Dover Strait was less dramatic, but after the strait a new challenge was waiting. A weak low covered the southern North Sea and our weather models suggested an easy crossing, right onto the exclusion zone near Rotterdam, in a clocking breeze.
But things turned out differently as the little low decided to be a bit further south, causing the breeze go left instead of right. Dragon was on our heels all night, beating among hordes of shipping and oil rigs.
A few times we negotiated with the officer on watch and made more than one ship change course for us.
We realised we had to tack to get further south east to get the benefit of the south westerly winds on the south east side of the low.
At the first daylight we broke through into the fresh south westerly and could hoist our largest gennaker. Dragon was right there behind us but suddenly appeared another player out the mist, Ericsson 4, who had been smart to push into the south east to catch the favourable running conditions.
It did not take long for Ericsson 4 and Dragon to overtake us running in 22 knots of wind. Just after they passed, our 400 sqm nylon gennaker exploded and we lost the last battle to the loop in Rotterdam, so close to be first there after near 800 nm of exciting and very variable sailing....
After waving goodbye to the Dutch spectators who had the interest to watch us flying by at 8 AM, we set off north, handicapped by having our large gennaker badly broken. Dragon and E4 disappeared north in the hazy morning and soon also PUMA came from behind and passed us in the same manner as we had experienced before.
But it is not over yet and our great team on Telefónica Black will do our very best to find a way back to the top of the leader board...
Volvo Ocean Race