By Brian Hancock
Explorer looks like they are doing a drive-by to say hello to their South African friends on Sterna, but it’s actually a good tactical move. They are still riding the edge of a strong low pressure system which they will use to slingshot them south where there will be less wind, but enough wind for them to make good speed. They need to be careful though. The Agulhas Current runs down the east coast of Africa at a fair clip and always where a strong wind meets a strong current thing can get a little testy for all mariners, not just for the crew on Explorer. I grew up sailing that coast and a wind against tide situation has quite literally broken ships in half. Let’s keep a close eye on them to see how they make out in the next two or three days until they get well clear of land and south of the current.
White Shadow, a beautiful Swan 57 skippered by Jean-Christophe Petit, and Neptune, also a beautiful yacht skippered by Tanneguy Raffray are enjoying similar conditions to each other even though they are quite far apart, with a fairly strong southwesterly wind coming in over their starboard side. It will make for a damp (understatement) few days, but that’s the nature of the Southern Ocean.
Spirit of Helsinki, Maiden and Translated 9 are both across the ditch that I mentioned yesterday and they will be romping along in a strong northwesterly wind with the breeze coming over their port side also making for some damp sailing conditions.
Now let me explain sailing. I did my first Whitbread with a Dutchman who announced one day, “I hate getting wet.” Well that’s like saying that bankers hate money. You are going to get wet and if you are in some of the conditions that the fleet in McIntyre Ocean Globe race find themselves; you are going to get very wet. Both on deck and below because as much as you have decent foul weather gear, the water still finds a way in. Water is sneaky like that. Then there is the business of going down below and removing your foul weather gear. Water just gets everywhere no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Your bunk gets damp and that makes for some not so good sleeping. Every now and then a wave will come washing down the companionway no matter how hard you time things to get below, and that water will slush around the bilge until the skivvy (usually me back in the day) would have to pump it out and mop it up.
If you are doing a sail change of the fore deck you are going to get soaked, no question about that. Sometimes you look aft and the helmsman would be looking smug, but every now and then, and more times than you would think, a wave comes over the stern. It’s called being pooped on (nautical term – Google it) as a big wave comes up from behind and dumps a bucket of water on the driver. For the fore deck hands it’s a fleeting moment of pure enjoyment.
There are going to be many more days of wet and wild sailing. Take this advice from a veteran; keep your underpants dry and your head screwed on tight and your life will be good.