Day 10 – Tuesday 14 January.
By Grant Chapman.
The early morning watch gradually gained on what appeared to be a yacht off the port bow which we discovered was Mike and Sally Bowker on Jacaranda of Carrick when we finally caught up with them later in the morning. The Bowkers were sailing around the world double-handed in a Van der Stadt Madeira 44 and were including the Cape to Rio race in their 2 year circumnavigation itinerary. The wind dropped down to a frustrating 5 knots as we came within shouting distance of them, our sails flogging back and forth as the swell rocked us with more force than there was wind to fill our sails. This was the closest we had been to any other vessel since we left the start in Cape Town and we chatted with them on the VHF radio, calling them up on channel 16 and switching over to channel 6 for a chat about their progress. Despite continued attempts to catch fish they had been unsuccessful thus far and quizzed us on what lures we had been using. Jacaranda sailed off on a more northerly bearing than us which they said they were doing to avoid the impeding movement north of the centre of the high pressure and the lack of wind that it would bring. The sudden drop-off in wind had us thinking that maybe the centre of the high pressure had come through earlier than anticipated in the forecasts we were getting but fortunately the wind did pick up again about an hour later. We were always going to end up with some shifty low wind speed weather crossing the top of the high pressure and hoped that we could minimize the time spent in it as much as possible.
We were now at 220 44’ S and had moved west of the Greenwich meridian by 2 degrees and considering that Rio de Janeiro was at 220 51’ S and 430 14’ W we were already just north of our destination but had about 2460 nautical miles west to travel to get there (that is (43-2)x60 =2460), there being 60 minutes to a degree of course and one minute being exactly one nautical mile. We had already travelled 1450 nautical miles to date, giving us a total of 3910 miles. Assuming we could keep up the same average boat speed of 145 miles per day this gave us about another 17 days to get to Rio which would be on the cut-off date of 31 January. This was cutting things too close and we needed to get our average boat speed up if we were to give ourselves a better margin. We calculated that we needed to average at least 6.5 to 7 knots to give us 160+ miles per day. This was based of course on us taking a direct heading to Rio now that we were on her parallel. The daily GRIB update reconfirmed that the high pressure would be at its highest latitude on Wednesday. The barometric pressure had also dropped to 1019hPa so things are starting to look good for us to miss the centre of the high pressure.
We have just heard via the satphone that Maserati is on track to arrive in Rio at 10:00pm this evening. Wow, what a machine that boat must be! The crew must also have been working flat out keeping her flying along at the speeds necessary to achieve what she has done. She will definitely be breaking the course record by a couple of days.
Our daily position report which arrived via e-mail on our sailor modem satellite link at midday showed that we were back in fourth position and that all the yachts in our division were in much the same area of ocean, having all decided to take a similar course around the top of the high.
We had two sightings of an all-white Tropic bird with its distinctive long white tail feathers trailing straight out behind it, however we couldn’t make a definitive identification as the Sasol Birds book we were using on the iPhone only covered the coastal regions of southern Africa and didn’t include the species of Tropic bird that we were seeing. This also brought home to us how far we had travelled north as we were now almost on the same parallel as the Angolan/Namibia border.
At about 5:00pm Zulu the anti-wrap device dropped overboard yet again due to the halyard snap shackle inadvertently popping open. A few not-so-nice choice words later we had dropped the spinnaker and started hoisting Lorraine up the mast after she gamely volunteered to do the job. She clung to the top of the mast like a monkey to avoid being flung around like a conker on a string by the pitching and rocking boat with the odd yelp to Marcus on the helm to hold the boat straight. We cut off the offending snapshackle and sent it plummeting down overboard to Davy Jones’s locker where it would no doubt rust back to its original elements in only a few months.
The wind dropped in the evening to 6-10 knots for a couple of hours which had us thinking that maybe were skirting the top of the high now. For supper we had toppers and spaghetti which we needed to doctor with copious quantities of chilli sauce, which still didn’t prevent several of us from ditching a good quantity of our supper overboard. There was unanimous agreement that we needed to catch some more fish as soon as possible, and almost on cue we got a nice bite but after an over-run on the reel we managed to bring the sizeable fish to the stern of the boat where it promptly shook its hook. It was always going to be a challenge landing a big fish off the stern of the boat while making way at 8+ knots with a big wake behind us rather than following a fish while motoring with the sails down as were in a race of course and using the motor was not allowed.