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


Masterchef Challenge!

Dear landlubbers

You have been presented with a freshly caught, still-flapping Dorado. There is no shop within 1800 km. You are required to prepare a luncheon involving said Dorado, for your fellow travelers. Proceed.

Here is one attempted solution.

  1. Dispatch the denizen of the deep to the hereafter by means of a sharply applied winch handle to the head.
  2. Gut the same. Remove head and tail with whatever implements are to hand. A Leatherman and a hacksaw may come in handy.
  3. Clean the murder site by means of copious buckets of salt water splashed over the decks and scrubbed . Stand back to admire your handiwork.
  4. Attempt to fillet the fish with the implements to hand. Concede that neat fillet steaks are not an option.
  5. Wrap in foil and a bin bag and place in a barely cold fridge for 18 hours to consider what to do with your fish.
  6. Name your fish. Being the first, we start with A.  Meet Alphonse.
  7. The next day, you discover why comestion of the fish had been delayed.  You are on lunch duty….  Masterchef challenge accepted…..

Random events and circumstances to be borne in mind

  • your work surface is 20 cm x 30 cm. And moves mostly in two, sometimes three,  dimensions. If your remove the kettle from the stove top, it must occupy your work surface.
  • the fridge is under the work surface
  • you have a two plate gas burner and oven on gimbals, meaning that its motion is entirely disconnected to that of the boat.
  • implements, ingredients, pans, etc. are not what you are accustomed to. Any request for such is met with a chorus of “don’t have” or “it’s in one of eleven cupboards”.

Take 2 bird’s eye chillies. 2 green chilies, one habanero and chop finely, all while your chopping board swings 30 degrees to each side.  Apply to the fish, with olive oil, garlic, butter and freshly squeezed lime juice. Salt and black pepper to taste. Cover with foil, and place in a preheated oven.

Temperature cannot be properly controlled so just take what you get. Bake fish until done, and serve with a sauce of melted butter, chopped coriander and Tabasco.

Fellow crew, lunch is served. 0 marks for presentation. For the rest, I’m pretty darned proud. And it will be the best fish I’ve ever eaten.

Winds up

After a relatively slow day yesterday, we found the wind strengthen today to about 20 knots. The lumpy seas mean that we will not try our new fixed-up spinnaker pole as it is to be preserved for the more gentle winds of the tropics. This is fine, as Sophie B thanks us for being treated gently and gently skips along even when under genoa and main.

A fresh dorado caught by Harry yesterday meant that we had a delicious lunch of baked dorado accompanied by a lime, garlic and coriander sauce. The judges of master chef may have had a little trouble with the presentation as the bumpy sea put paid to any frills, but the taste was simply awesome.

I remember, now, why I never eat dorado that is not freshly caught from the mid-Atlantic. I’d be sure to be disappointed. The afternoon saw us cross the meridian into the Western Hemisphere, which was an excuse to follow lunch with a little champagne!

The race is hotting up, and we wait to hear the progress of the “faster” boats from our rear, as we make steady progress to Rio with Avanti within 50 miles or so of us. We feel our northerly track will stand us in good stead as we head for the trade winds.

The watch and sleeping routine is now exactly that – routine, and it is easy to enjoy wake up at odd hours for a bit of sailing and chatting one’s fellow crew. Of particular interest have been Petri’s lessons on dark matter, time and the theory of waves and how the ocean is sometimes uphill! Somehow after chatting to him it all makes sense. I think you need hours on the ocean to understand though.