By Matthew Thomas
As they approach Fernando de Noronha, the “Two Pips’ are now closing on the rhumb line and with that ‘Zetra’ sailed by Eduardo Penido and Renato Araujo, the Brazilian Duo who are also first time competitors in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
The pressure is on, there is always work to do and being off watch simply means you’re not helming, but doing chores and chores and chores, and getting a bit of sleep when you can as Pip explains in her latest blog:
“We have nearly been racing for three weeks and the competition is still as hot as it was at the start. Within our own little pack there have been multiple changes of position over the last three days and slowly but surely we are all aiming for the same bit of water and to arrive within a few hours of each other.
“It is hard to believe that we still have 2000 miles of this race to go, it feels like the equator is moving away from us as fast as we can chase it. There is still so much more sailing to do.
“The last couple of days have been tough, come to think of it this whole race to date has been tough, but coming through the ITCZ is always a challenge and this time was no exception. We burst our way out of the NE trades on Wednesday morning and sailed straight into a wall of impenetrable black and brooding cloud. The light all around was dull and ominous and the wind dropped to nothing, during the rest of the day, each new head of cloud brought its own breeze and had us chasing off in different directions, or once even doing a full 360 to absolutely no avail. As night fell it started to rain and blow from the east under a total heavy covering of cloud.
“There followed a hideous night of continuous driving rain, mixed up sloppy sea states and wind blowing between 20 and 35 knots. The cloud cover was so dense and so complete that all form or nuance of shade or shape had been removed from our surroundings, you could see nothing at all outside the boat, balancing was impossible as you had no idea of when waves were coming or gusts of wind. It was like sailing with a blind fold on. The night seemed never ending, requiring reefs in and out continuously and all to the beat of the driving rain. At 06h00 I started to look longingly west for any sign at all of the dawn. Eventually the world turned grey, then blue and we sailed out into an equally murky day but what appeared to be the start of the south east trade winds.
“We are further west than the rest of our pack and during the last couple of days have managed to climb from the bottom of the pack to the top, as different teams paid their dues to the doldrums. Today is the first day we have seen the sun in a few and this morning a neat little line of cumulus presented themselves on the horizon, then made their way towards us carrying the new trade winds. The pack of chasing boats is now settled and we are in a white sail drag race to the Brazilian hump off Recife before we drop south. We are desperately trying to hold off the chasing boats but they are coming in at a faster angle and with every position report they take a little it more out of us; our only hope is we hang onto them until we are all in the same patch of water when our courses converge and then the race can begin again.
“I’m off watch. I am frantically sewing up the spinnaker. This sail is going to be vital further down the track and so I have decided to reinforce every one of the sticky repairs by sewing round the edges. I estimate there is around 12 further hours of sewing to get through, I have already done 6. My fingers are a mess of needle marks. It reminds me a lot of my first single handed voyage across the Atlantic when my sails were so old I had to sew them back together every morning. Times don’t change”.