By Brian Hancock
If you look at the Yellow Brick tracker it looks like a spaghetti sauce made by your favourite Italian grandmother. First of all you have Marie Tabarly and her crew on Pen Duick VI legging out on the rest of the fleet. Then you have a one-on-one duel between Maiden and Translated 9. They could practically pass the grey poupon between them. Then you have our mates on Godspeed winging it from behind, but there really is some juice in this race and that’s among the real stories in the middle of the fleet.
Let’s look at Outlaw muddling their way down the African coast. I know that Don (as in Mcintyre – the Boss) will try and assess a time allowance for their dalliance with a possible pirate, but they are so badly positioned to enter the Southern Hemisphere because of their divergence to Senegal to get rid of the pesky prick who showed up out of nowhere in his silly (I would say stupid here but I don’t like that word). His silly canoe looking like he had been out at a Club Med resort and got a little lost. They deserve a lot of time Don.
Then there is Tanneguy Raffray, skipper of Neptune, who looks like they have taken a sharp left hand turn probably in search of some breeze. Breeze is an allusive thing in the doldrums. White Shadow, a Swan 57 is trucking along at a fairly decent clip of just under 7 knots while my old mate Tapio on Galiana WithSecure is hobbling along at miserable 3.6 knots, a bit over a hundred miles astern. Hot and tiresome days lie ahead.
Here’s the thing. When you get through the doldrums you find yourself finding the south-east trades. Remember I spoke of two competing high pressure systems. Us Southern Hemisphere folks have our own system and it’s a bugger for the boats; meaning that the fun days of flying along with the wind at your back are over, and you are now treated to a lot of wind on the nose. I have been there, a few times. There is not much you can do about it. You can take the long road and go to the west side of the high and ride some decent breeze, but also add an extra thousand miles to your course, or you can remove your false teeth and take it on the nose, like we did back in the wayback machine. It’s not pleasant and, I am trying to be discreet here, using the head (bathroom for you non-sailors) can be a challenge that you can tell your grandchildren about.
Then there is Sterna, my South African mates trucking along at steady, and quite respectable, 6.6 knots. If I know anything they will probably be getting the coals ready for the big game on Sunday. SA versus Tonga in the Rugby World Cup. Go Bokke. And for the rest of you reading this, that means that the South Africans might be kicking some Tonga butt, or maybe there meat will get cold on the grill while they watch another repeat of SA against Ireland where we suffered a humiliating defeat. Happy Friday.