Let the Kite fly!

Tuesday 17 September 2013
CATEGORY: Expedition
TAGS: Sailing

Our journey continues and as we pass the Canaries to the East, the
temperature is rising steadily. Yesterday I had my first graveyard watch
(the one from 2 to 6 in the morning) in shorts. Our ships starts to feel
more and more like a big Sauna. Thankfully our mechanics Charly and Ralf
have installed a few fans yesterday, which gets the air flowing below deck,
otherwise it would be unbearable.
Only our two mother bunks – the two bunks that are reserved for the mothers
to get full 8 hours of sleep are somehow disconnected from the airflow.
This has resulted in a first case of heatstroke, I have the feeling it will
not be our last causality. This has lead Vicky to install the new functions
of water monitor – a dedicated person in each watch that is keeping track
of the water consumption of each crew member. This is noted on a big
whiteboard and if you don’t drink you are reminded every 15 (or was it 5?)
to do so.
This adds to the row of other functions that are shared out now between the
crew – take mine for example: In addition of being the social secretary for
the boat, I am also assistant video and assistant bosun and when on the
deck second bowman– quite an accumulation of responsibility:
Currently my tasks as social secretary are to organize some fun and games
for the daily crew happy hour – its the only hour where the whole crew is
on deck (ie both watches) and which is usually reserved for an update by
the skipper about the boat and race as well as a funny competition.
Yesterday I organized Clipper Olympics – members of each watches had to
compete in categories like laying a figure 8 and blind bowline binding.
This may give more and more the impression of a pleasure cruise rather than
a race – and indeed, sometimes I get the feeling that we are lacking
competitive mood on board. This is increasingly leading to impatience
within the crew and also shows some of the team dynamics – While some of
the all around the world crew members seem to be content to dedicate this
particular race (from Brest to Rio) to getting to know the boat and
preserve our equipment as good as possible, its the “leggers”, the ones who
leave the boat in Rio, that want to push for a better place in the race.
The latter fraction in particular seem to be unhappy – Due to a satellite
problem, we had a no weather and schedule update for the last 24 hours, but
when the standings finally came through this lunchtime our fears where
confirmed: We are still stuck in tenth place with the leaders now almost
250miles ahead of us, thats more than a day! In particular our hunt for
ninth place (with Jamaica, which at one point was only five miles ahead of
us), seem to have moved to a defense of tenth (against Team Garmin, who had
a great run).
Whats to do? I described already in my last blog, that our skipper is
running a very conservative approach – rather running a more conservative
sail plan, than risking a break. This might be also driven by reports from
other boats about breaks and tears in spinnakers and so on… but if they
have damage it doesn’t seem to hinder them in being fast!!
At least we are flying now the Spinnaker around the clock – It took us a
while to convince Vicky, but since Saturday morning the kite has been
continuously up – first the heavy weight, which was changed yesterday to
the midweight and this morning to the lightweight (the biggest). Especially
the change this morning was a showcase in how much the crew has improved in
running this ship. A series of six evolutions where planned, prepared and
executed in perfect coordination and we the time between the two spinnakers
(due to a lack of a second tackline we couldn’t “peel”them, ie hoist them
both at the same time) was less then five minutes. A very supportive move!
Nevertheless it seems that with every score table the rest of the fleet is
moving further away. This afternoon Paolo and myself have dedicated
ourselves to analysis of the race data to find ways to improve our score –
its too hot to sleep anyway! In addition we are running also some weather
analysis, to plot our optimal course with the trade winds to the Doldrums.
Its hopefully not yet too late to pull out a surprise out of the hat!

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