Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, Day 35. Brian Thompson onboard the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V reports on progress:
Banque Populaire - Jules Verne Trophy 2011
We are getting up the South Atlantic even faster than we hoped. We are past the first high pressure to the West, and we went through a stationary front off Rio last night, and are now sailing around the final giant weather system until the doldrums - the St Helena high, placed to our East. This feeds the tradewinds that blow past both the Africa and Brasilean coasts. Currently we are receiving NE winds from the High, so we are sailing upwind on starboard tack, hoping to squeeze past the bulge of Brasil.
It's great sailing; a bright blue sea and sky, puffy white cumulus clouds, steady winds and crystal clear visibility - at least 50 miles, as we can clearly see the top of big clouds, whose bases are far over the horizon.
The wind speed is 17 knots and we have just changed from the Solent to the staysail, whilst keeping a full mainsail..we have also put a short tack in to port, to get further into the favorable wind bend around the High Pressure.
And recently, we have had encounters with humans, cetaceans and possibly aliens....
Firstly we saw a ship, our first visual indicator of other humans for four weeks, as we have not even seen the contrail of an aeroplane in that time... the ship was heading across our path, from South America towards South Africa.
Secondly, we saw a whale, possibly a Finback, but I need a book to check. It was heading on the opposite course to us, at about five knots speed. Fred, at the helm, saw it first, seeing it's puffs of breath shooting 2m into the air.it was swimming alone and its c30 ton bulk passed about 40m down our port side. It was fantastic to see such an amazing animal, but I do hope the whale realized that we were there too..whales and fast multihulls need to keep a healthy respect for each other, as we do both of us a serious injury if we collided.
And thirdly, there was the most bizarre light in the sky the night before last, Christmas Day night, it was like one of those searchlights outside a nightclub, shining up into the sky from the South. It went from the horizon vertically up to about 25/30 degrees, so not as high as those searchlights, but that same kind of narrow, white beam.
It was really odd, and it stayed there all night, so everyone saw it, and had a different opinion on what it might be. It did not spin round like the stars, it stayed vertical... The only thing that could be agreed upon, is that nobody, in all their miles at sea, had seen anything like it before.
Yvon, in his usual humorous way, suggested it was an alien landing staircase. Fred thought it might be a solar reflection effect off Antarctica, it looked something like a giant comet to me, but not spinning in the sky might put paid to my theory.
Part of the great charm of being at sea, is to view unusual things.
Banque Populaire website