Today has been an interesting as well as frustrating day on the Black Pearl. We are sailing parallel to the Argentinean coast in a drag race with our competitors who are all within 50 miles of us. We are reaching with the wind from the north west all heading the same course as we speed for the next weather obstacle in our path to Rio, a ridge of high pressure that we will negotiate on Sunday.

As all the boats are heading in the same direction with similar wind speeds and angles it is a good time to assess our boats performance in these conditions. We have not been able to do much of this on the Pearl so far so we are learning a lot but some of the lessons are harsh. Our guide to performance as the boats are not in sight of each other is the data we glean from the six hourly sked or position reports on how the other boats have gone- we have been taking a few hits in mileage losses as we try out sail combinations to see what gives us our best speeds and sweet spots with each sail. As these boats are so fast the difference in being well set up with the right sail can be measured in whole knots which can translate to miles in a 6 hour period. This is a non stop around the clock activity – as the pirates are working hard on deck trimming and tweaking theses massive sail aerofoil’s for each gust of wind below decks we are also analyzing the data we record on board to deduce what set up works and what does not. We compare this with our previous performance data and relative gains and losses on the fleet to make our judgments. This is a scientific process in that we apply some sophisticated software and measuring tools but becomes a more holistic affair when we add in the many variables we cannot measure. There are rarely clear cut answers just degrees of fast and slow. We note down what we think increases performance sail by sail. Everyone has an opinion so there are some interesting discussions. The sail chart which is the quick guide or map to our sail selection started as a theoretical neat and ordered color coded sheet but now looks like something Jackson Pollock would be proud of. The blue coded sail has been making gains in areas we did not first envisage and light green is proving itself to be a costly item with a very small range.

We cannot just change sails as you would on a small keelboat to test them, we are 10 pirates who have been at this for 2 weeks now so you can’t just call a sail change every few minutes because the one you have up is not quite right. Changing sails is hard work an also costs miles. The reaching sails weigh 100 kilos when wet on the rail so take some manhandling. It is no coincidence we refer to ourselves as ‘dung beetles’ as we roll and push these things around. When not flying these sails fulfill a vital role in helping trim the boat fore and aft which is another one of the many elements to setting up one of these complex beasts to be fast. Each sail change takes about 20 minutes to set the new one and drop the old one and needs the 4 on watch and ideally the 2 guys coming off or on plus skipper or navigator to do efficiently.

The day ends a bit better than it began with a small part of the sail crossover puzzle solved on this vessel and a few miles gained rather than lost to our competitors. The process will roll on through the night as subtle changes in wind, waves and angle will open up more of the conundrum to making this machine go fast.

Jules Salter

Navigator

Position: 51,55.95S , 56,10.24W

Speed: 7 knots, Course: 33 deg.

We are slipping along at 7 knots in 4 knots of wind thanks to our Code 0. These powerful sails make light air incredibly less painful. We are just passing east of the Falklands. Our router has us staying quite east for the first two thirds of the leg to Rio.

The five day forecast shows a very tricky leg to Rio. We will have about 5 transitions.leaving one weather system and entering or being over taken by another.. to deal with. The first was yesterday after rounding the Cape, ABN1 and Pirates sailed into a stalled bit of cloud that was hanging off the land. The both of us parked pretty firmly while the others sailed up in the 30 knots of wind around the Cape. We took a huge hit on one sked..50 miles to Brasil and about 0 to each of Ericsson and ABN2. Then as Brasil got to the area that we parked in, the cloud band moved off to the east and they were able to slip in along the coast and go through the La Mare straight, all the while enjoying more wind and more lifted direction. They paid a bit back today as they had to come down east to go around the Falklands like the rest of us. Tonight we are going through a small bubble of high pressure. The wind has dropped steadily all after noon and now we are literally coasting along. There appears to be no wind on the water, it is a clear night and you can see the reflection of the stars in the water like a plate of glass. Really a pretty night and the stars are so bright when you are out here away from the loom of any city. Again, and experience few ever get.

Tomorrow and Sunday should be good mileage days as we pick up westerly’s again early in the morning. Sunday night we will sail through a high pressure ridge. This could be another moment of reshuffling. After that we pick up southeasterly’s on the west side of a low pressure cell that is forming right now near Buenos Aires and will drift out to sea over the next 48 hours. Don’t know if you are that much into weather so sorry for the information over load if you aren’t. But that is basically what I do. I, along with Jules have to analyze the information we get, decide if it is accurate, if not, adjust the models, then run the right weather through the routing software which then spits out a bunch of numbers. We then take all that and make a strategy that includes the location of our competitors what they are likely to do or be able to do from their position with the weather that they will have.

Apart from all the work, I caught up on some sleep today, 24 hour sessions and worked on my sail cross over chart, making notes on what we have learned about our sails and when to use them, angles and wind speeds.

I also treated my self to my other, fresh, pair of base layer. Yes, that’s right, I have been wearing the same clothes for 12 days. I gave myself a shower of sorts, lots of baby wipes, then I slid into the fresh smelling long johns and top. Man, what a difference that made. I still have the same socks because I have a complicated sock system and I have only one set up. That is a wool inner sock, a gortex sock, and then another wool sock. I had to run light weight boots on this leg as the really heavy duty boots, which are made of rubber, are too small for my feet and the cold was going right through them. So I took a bit of a gamble wearing my Musto goretex inshore boots in the Southern Ocean, but I made it!

We compile our work list onboard the boat as the leg goes on so today I sent that off tour shore team so they can get prepared before our arrival. There is all the normal maintenance plus a few bigger jobs. I want to mentionthat none of the major repairs we have had to do on this boat have ever come back to bother us. Our shore team long with the builders at Green Marine who have constantly looked after even though our boat long since left their yard, and our designer at Farr Yacht Design, have down a very good job of identifying the problems and solving them in a proper way. Thanks to everyone for that!

I am looking forward to getting to Rio. Rio is one of those cities that has an exotic image. I first went to Rio in 1977, the same year I graduated from high school. The Laser World Championship was in Cabo Frio, just up the coast from Rio. I met many nice people like the Bruns and the Adler’s who helped me and looked after me. I really like Rio. I have been there several times since, but the memories that I have of the Yacht Club, the city, Sugar Loaf, Copacabana and Ipanema from 30 years ago, have left the strongest impressions in my mind. I am looking forward to visiting all those same places and probably some new ones and seeing all my friends who live in that great city.

Torben Greal and his team are staging a great comeback in this leg. You can almost feel Brasil pulling them in like gravity. For the Volvo Ocean Race to have an athlete with Torben’s record, participating, putting his name on the line, adds a great deal of quality and stature to the event. Brasil knows how to celebrate and I am sure they will turn out in droves to welcome home their team after this long race from New Zealand.

We haven’t sailed much in these very light conditions so I am going to go up on deck and sail the boat for awhile to try to learn something.

PC

Pirates of the Caribbean

Teen Happy Pirates heading north but parked. We round Cape Horn in 33 knots of wind and now just 47 miles east we have 5 knots of wind and a huge sea . Very strange turn of events but I remember parking here 4 years ago with Dalton on AMER Sports. Eventually the wind fills from the northwest and we take off. At least we are headed directly where we want to go.La Mer Straights.. which is the water between the very bottom of Argentina and Island called Staten Island. Patience for now.

We had a magnificent day rounding the Horn. The day started with the very slow lightening of the sky that you get at high latitudes. I was on the helm from pure darkness through to daylight. That is my favorite moment out here. It was particularly windy last night so we took the spinnaker down just to play it conservative and make sure we did not have any major issues. Still, it was on the edge steering the boat at 25-30 knots of speed, down large waves, without any visibility. In those conditions, just the slightest bit of additional light helps tremendously and the fact that the light is coming so slowly, tantalizes you.

As soon as we could see reasonably, well before actual sunrise, we put the spinnaker back up. I was trying hard to make sure we did not have to gybe at the Horn but in the end we did and that cost us a bit. But it also did set us up to come very close to the Cape and enjoy the spectacularly rugged terrain of the Cape area. There are several islands other than Cape Horn, which is also an Island. I enjoyed this one much more than the previous two. We took time to absorb the moment. Plenty of photos with the Horn behind us: the “first timers”, the “three timers”, the whole crew, the skipper and navigator, etc.

We are just moving along ever so slowly no, wondering what the others have.is someone screaming along at 20 in some wind we wont get? That is always the worry when you park. Hopefully it is something we all have to gothrough. The tough part is that this light patch is not on any forecast so we are just guessing and surmising what might have caused it.

We have completely restacked the boat to leeward now and forward, Craig did a mast check and found a screw had fallen out of a sheave so he went back up and fixed that, and now it is time for me to get some sleep.

Adios.

Paul Cayard

Pirates of the Caribbean

Position: 56,3.22S , 67,6.61W

Speed: 25 knots, Course: 56 deg.

Ten happy Pirates heading north!

More later.

PC

Pirates of the Caribbean

Position: 57,18.43S , 74,29.29W

Speed: 25 knots, Course: 83 deg.

247 miles out west of Cape Horn. 9:40 to go at present speed and a bit more wind ahead. We are reaching in with the blast reacher, genoa staysail and one reef in the main. It is dark, no moon, but it will only be dark for four hours tonight as we are at 57 south.

Movistar just sped past us today, 2 miles to leeward. That justified my thinking three days ago when we gybed away from the south and headed east to where we thought we should go. That move bought us 16 miles and it took them 3 days to get back to us. We have to continue to look for the right moves when racing both Movistar and ABN1 in these high speed conditions.

Shortly after they passed us, they took their spinnaker down and went with their blast reacher on a higher heading. The route all have us gybing near Cape Horn in 35 knots of wind. To gybe one of these things is a major project. You have to completely restack the boat and either you put all the sails below and haul them back on the deck after the maneuver, which is the safest thing to do but extremely hard work and time consuming or you gybe with them restacked already on the new windward side which makes doing the gybe a bit tricky for the skipper. We ran the router constraining it to a point offshore far enough that we would not have to gybe. Obviously that is not the optimal way to get around the horn,(the routing software calculated the optima) but I wanted to see what it was worth to go optimal. It turned out that the difference in time between optimal, which requires two gybes and there is no accounting in the router for the cost of a gybe, and sailing further offshore and against the shift, was about 20 minutes.

So we kept our spinnaker up for about 3 more hours than Movistar and kept heading southeast for a while. Just before dark, we went with the more user friendly and safer rig that we are now carrying. We are currently just making it past the Horn. I don’t think we went far enough so I think we will have to reset the spinnaker at first light to try to get a bit “deeper” or lower on the course.

So the short story is that there were two reasons for us to adopt a different strategy to approach the Horn than Movistar; one is that if we followed them they would probably beat us there, and the second which is actually a better reason is that I would really like to avoid two gybes in 35 true right off Cape Horn. Upside- a safer passage and a possible pass, downside-nothing. But with all that is to be calculated and managed, I won’t sleep until we get around the CORN-er.

We currently have the same rig and conditions that we had the first night of this race off Vigo when we ripped the keel fairing doors off the bottom of the boat. We are doing up to 30 knots at times and slamming off waves in the night as the helmsmen can’t see where we are going to land. The shuttering and slamming makes sounds like broken glass inside the boat. The keel is humming. It hums a higher pitch the faster we go. We have a leak in our rudder bearing and the flow of the leak increases the faster we go.more buckets per hour, that’s all.

But you know what, we are going to round Cape Horn in about 10 hours! That will be one of the major moments in my sailing career, even though it is the third time. Sailing from Wellington to the Horn is like a marathon or an Ironman of sorts. We put so much work and effort into sailing this thing that it is nice to reach a milestone so large. It is to be celebrated. I don’t know how, probably just in the fact that it wont ever be forgotten by each of us.

PC

Pirates of the Caribbean