Which way to Rio?

As I lie in my bunk I can hear Tom and Petri in the cockpit above me discussing the grib (weather) files and routing options to Rio. The routing decision has consumed us. All other topics of discussion have long since retreated to the bilges where they lurk with abandoned beanies and lost socks.

The primary issue is simply this: north now or later? The secondary issue is how far north? Rio lies about 2 degrees, or 120 miles, north of our current latitude. So we have to make some northward gains at some point to get to Rio.

Furthermore, the traditional route to Rio takes a much more northerly line, with boats usually approaching Rio from the north east to avoid the calms associated with the mid-Atlantic high pressure system.

The direction of the wind and swell makes it very difficult to sail directly towards our preferred way point. At present we can sail either due west, and thus potentially straight into the mid-Atlantic high where we could languish for days in light winds; or we can sail north of north west before heading west once more.

There are advantages to both approaches and some of us manage to simultaneously advocate for both strategies at the same time without blushing. Perhaps I should have included haloperidol (a strong injectable anti-psychotic) in the first aid kit after all.

The nuances of the discussion are far too detailed to be reproduced here. The massive oversimplification is as follows: if we go too far north we could miss the chance to take a gap through the high pressure zone should one appear; and if we go west we will remain close to Avanti (our main competition) and will be able to respond to their moves. The next day or two will likely lock in our overall race strategy.

If you have been following the race tracker, you may have noticed that we changed to a more northerly course at about 3am this morning. This however was not because we have come to a decision. Rather our AIS system alerted us to a very large tanker bearing down on us at more than 20kts. We had to gybe to get out of the way.

So the discussions continue this morning. And in case you have jumped to the conclusion that the discussions are acrimonious, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The discussions are knitting the team together, allowing us to recognize each other’s strengths.

What is clear from the discussions though is that we have one of the best navigators in the fleet on board Sophie B, and two superb sailors with valuable tactical racing experience.

So what do I think, north or west? We still have a day or two to make a decision and should keep our options open for the time being. I am sure that with more grib files and great discussion that this remarkable team will come up with a winning strategy.

Best, Harry

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