The hole truth, and nothing but a big black hole

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The Independent Online

For me doing this event is normally a total delight – however, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week were more like a nightmare.

For me doing this event is normally a total delight – however, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week were more like a nightmare.

For 24 hours I was either up on deck mad with frustration trying to make 15 tonnes of yacht move in no wind whatsoever, or I was down below unable to sleep listening to the sails sloshing from side to side – a tell-tale sign of no wind and no boat-speed.

Having rounded Trindade Island (our last turning mark before Cape Town) we elected to turn east to try to get the best weather to get on our way across the Southern Atlantic. Very shortly afterwards, Mother Nature dealt us the cruellest hand she could – we ran into a huge hole with absolutely no wind at all.

None of our weather forecasts suggested that this would be there, and sadly once we were in it we simply did not have the speed to get out of it. We were out of sight of the other yachts, so until the next position report came in the real horror of what had happened was not clear.

When it did become apparent we just could not believe it – the four boats around us appeared to have escaped the no-go zone and were belting off to Cape Town at about 10 knots – leaving us with the awful truth of the loss of around 50 miles every painful six-hour position report.

The crew were completely devastated – all of our hard work (and we put a lot in) over the last three weeks was being whisked away – every boat length we had fought so desperately for was evaporating by the minute.

We went round the island in what we saw at the time as a safe second place – and now we are fifth, nearly 300 miles behind the leaders.

Normally we can make some form of joke or muster up a smile about most problems on board – but not this time. This has just pissed everyone off – there is no one to blame, and equally there is no point in crying over spilt milk, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a very, very low point in the race for me.

Most adverse situations in yachting are mentally easier to deal with – an unpredicted storm, broken equipment or an unfavourable wind shift – but running into a hole such as this is about as bad as it gets.

It's very hard to think of an analogy for this sort of happening in other sports – a mast falling down could be likened to a wheel falling off in a Formula One car race for example, but sitting in a hole in the weather for a day while everyone else around you shoots off into the distance is a hard feeling to explain.

Despite having a reasonable breeze, we are still making slow losses to the leaders. We have some 2,000 miles to go to Cape Town, though, and the long-term forecast is complicated, indicating slow spots for the leaders – and therefore possibilities for us to catch up.

So all we can do from here is knuckle down and look for any opportunities. Our sense of humour has slowly returned – helped by the ETA betting chart put together by Magnus Olsson (one of our helmsmen) which has taken our mind off our ever-increasing hunger – one more day of no progress has meant more food rationing.

It is the policy of the boat not to have any personal contact with the outside world, so I have had no news from my wife, Lisa, who is skippering Amer Sports Too, other than the position reports, but it looks like the girls are battling it out well with djuice and SEB – I just hope they don't have any of the frustrations that we have just gone through.

Yacht racing is strange; very rarely do you ever hear me say that it's anything other than the best sport in the world, butI have to admit this week I've been thinking about taking up golf!

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