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Day 199

By Brian Hancock

The northeast tradewinds have settled and they are slowly increasing in strength. Unlike that abomination, the St. Helena High, these winds seem to have formed a band of brothers and are well organised. This means two things; some wet sailing and very few passing lanes, unless… Sometimes the high pressure splits apart allowing a gap to sneak through if you have nerves of steel.

For now the best strategy is to sail up and over the high. It means that you will sail some extra distance, but if the High splits it leaves a more direct line toward the finish. All well and good until Mr High Pressure changes its mind and joins back together then you are left up that certain creek sans paddle.

I once did a passage from Honolulu to San Diego. Funny story. Who remembers that abomination of a movie called Waterworld starring Kevin Costner? Underneath all that camo was a very sturdy ORMA 60 trimaran. We decided to skirt the western edge in an attempt to get over the top of it, but the High had a mind of its own and drifted north at about the same speed that we were sailing north. We kept going; it kept going until at one one point we were on the same line of latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. That was about when the High had a change of heart and drifted south allowing for a fast ride over the top and an even faster ride down the eastern edge into San Diego. The last 24 hours of that trip were hairy and scary, a bit like my first wife. We were doing 28-knots at times and there were a plethora of fishing boats with nets out, but we made it.

My point of that story is that weather makes up its own mind and sometimes all bets are off. You pays your money, you takes your chances. The best thing that Marie Tabarly, skipper of Pen Duick VI, can do is stay between her competition and the finish line. It’s a strategy as old as there has been some dinghy racing going on. They can’t get past you if they are following you so stick to your guns Marie and don’t let anyone by without paying the toll.

I will come back to fleet tactics tomorrow and maybe another anecdote or two. For now you great adventurers, sail safe and sail strong and try and stay dry.

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