by Matthew Thomas
For most of us, this weekend has been dominated by the terrible tragedy in Paris.
Out on the course, in a predominantly French race, the ‘Two Pips’ had this to say:
“We were stunned and devastated this morning to hear of the terrible murders that were committed across Paris last night. That over 120 people could have gone out last night for a normal evening and been needlessly murdered is so hard to believe. And why any living person could want to and feel justified in carrying out such an act is beyond comprehension. This terrorist activity is against every principle of what it is to be a human being. There is no justification for the murder of innocent people. Our thoughts are with all of those that were affected as we sail across the ocean tonight”.
“Out here we sail, we eat, we sleep, life is stripped down and simple, we can go about our business with the total freedom that the ocean provides us and are absolutely privileged to do so. Our hearts and thoughts are with all those who have been affected by these crimes and with France”.
Of course, while they’re definitely reeling from the news and saddened by what is happening, there is no time to slow down as they continue to push to catch ‘Zetra’ which is now only 31nm ahead.
“What more could you want than blue seas, blue skies, 15 knots of wind and a true wind angle of 90 to 110?
“‘Concise 2′ is in her element! Gennaker, stay sail and full main as we blast across the equator. This is familiar territory for Pip and I. This is my 3rd time across the equator and Pip’s sixth time across the equator. We have both done this route before too. It is wonderful to be back in the Southern Hemisphere, my home. It is hot and muggy on board, but the breeze is keeping us cool.
We started today with full main and code zero. But this was not enough for Pip and I so we changed to the gennaker thinking that it was too tight, but it was not. ‘Concise 2′ was happy sailing a long at 9.5 knots. This afternoon after we crossed the equator in the heat of the day, we put the stay sail up too. Our girl is moving now in the little bit of breeze we have. Pip is still sowing the spinnaker back together as I took the helm and watched the gannets. The Gannets swooped and dived for fish. The flying fish are on form as they fly in schools out from under the boat.
“Today we had a look at currents and the weather to come for the final leg of the race. The Brazilian coast is not an easy place to navigate with the oil fields. So the last bit of the race is not going to be easy one at all. But today was a big tick in the box making it into the southern hemisphere once more….
‘Le Conservateur’ is still leading the class and is slowly adding some miles to their lead on ‘V and B’ as they race down the Brazilian coast, dodging oil platforms and their many supply vessels as well as the numerous fishing boats and fishing nets that litter the area.
For the Class40’s, it’s now a drag race as Pip explains:
“We have definitely now entered the drag race phase of the Transat Jacques Vabre. Our routing shows us a 949nm straight line south, with little variation in wind direction along the track.
“There is only one tactic here, put up as much sail as you possibly dare and then keep steering hard, he who breaks boat, sails, crew or bottles out, loses. That is a lot of pressure over a near 1000 mile track, and with our competitors just a stone’s throw away from us on the water, the heat is on to stay in the game. It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. Theoretically the 3rd generation boats should show us their heels now and we will be pretty powerless, literally, to stay in touch with them.
“‘Groupe Setin’ are our closest rival now, being a similar aged boat, but even then who has the most power at their fingertips will also rely on what sails we each have onboard to cover this wind range. At the moment we are pushing it with the biggest sails we can, there is water flying everywhere and during the gusts the boat is trying to wrestle itself from our control. Conventional seamanship at this stage is screaming at us to take some sail down, but putting in a reef leads to a much more manageable boat but also loses us a knot of boat speed – so we need to lock in for the wild ride.
“Meanwhile in the sweatbox down below the big spinnaker repairs are coming along. I have been steering in the morning and sewing in the afternoon, the sewing is harder going than the steering, it is so hot down below my head starts to go foggy quite quickly and my eyes smart from starring at that garish pink for hours at a time. I will have an estimate of how many metres of sewing I will have completed at the end. Answers on a postcard?
“Along with our on-the-water race we are now racing against time to get in as fast as possible. We received news yesterday that the cargo ship which is supposed to be taking ‘Concise 2′ back to the UK will be loading on the 24th. Current routing does not put us there on the 24th and this ship may well be steaming out of the harbour as we are crossing the finish line. We are trying not to get stressed about this situation now as the 24th is still a long day off, though seldom have I known routing to go down in time.
“We are running low on cooking gas onboard so we are starting to come up with ingenious ways to cook our food. We tried making porridge on the engine with not much luck, but are going to have a stab at heating a ready cooked packet of rice and stew on there tonight.
“At the moment we are barrelling along with great speed towards the Brazilian coast which we will converge with tomorrow. We can feel the presence of the other boats, it is making me nervous with the competition still being so hot and when I am not steering every other glance is a furtive one at the instruments to check our progress. Only four days of this intense pressure to deal with..”
“The next few days are going to be all about who can keep up the pressure and sail consistently without damaging any gear or hooking up any nets.”
As daylight breaks tomorrow, they’ll see Fernando de Noronha and know that they are on the final 1700nm leg to the finish in Italjaï.