by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 4 of Leg 2. Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg reports on the crew's progress:
Jono Swain trimming the front sail during his sunset watch. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Writing to you aboard the racing yacht Puma’s Mar Mostro, happy to report that we are still racing! No more reports of cows or golf or ships for a while. As I had sincerely hoped, just a simple report on sailboat racing.
Sorry I haven’t been more talkative since the start last Sunday. We have had a bit on, you might say. Incredible coastal racing around headlands and bays fraught with no wind zones. Brutal on skippers and navigators as we essentially don’t sleep through those times. The guys on watch at least have scheduled down time, but the fact is they don’t sleep much either because of the constant sail changing.
I thought we actually sailed really well those first couple days. We were a bit unlucky right after the start – we got stuck in one of the bays south of Cape Town, and in a complete drift-off watched the fleet sail away. But, no panic. One by one over the next few days we picked everyone off, leading as we approached Port Elizabeth on the southeast corner of the Cape. Then we got stuck on the wrong side of a convergence cloud line at night along with Camper and watched Groupama and Abu Dhabi, who were well behind going into the point, sail right around us. To give you and idea how strange that point in the race was…Sanya was only three miles back the last time we saw them, and when the next three hour sched came, out they were 30 miles behind. Ahhh the joy of sailing.
On to the Aguilus Current. Not so bad really. We were ready for the worst and it really didn’t have much in it – maybe 28 knots of wind and a pretty tough head sea. But to be honest, the head sea from the east (and of course we are heading to the east) has been here pretty much since, so I guess the current is leaving us with a little gift that keeps on giving.
Since then it has been a dash to the east. We’re trying so hard to actually catch this front line and try to punch through to the northerlies on the other side. We keep running into the line of little pressure. I think the term is self correcting. Have a good three hours and you sail into the lighter wind, which slows you and the rest catch up…and visa versa. It’s not very rewarding for all the work. Essentially there is a new starting line out here with the fleet spread about 120 miles north to south along it, and at some point someone is going to say 'go' and we get to punch through and take off. So who is ahead right now? The scheds say the boat furthest north because they are closest to the mark. But, it is a six-boat dead even horse race that will reward the first to punch through – especially once we get to the new high pressure and tack to starboard for days of reaching in the Indian Ocean trade winds. It is a bit of a lottery out here right now. Time for Mar Mostro to get a bit lucky.
For sure the fleet will be a bit nicked up right now. This head sea has been a bit rough on the yachts at times. We have had our issues, but so far have been able to work them out pretty efficiently. Nothing too out of the ordinary for a day in the life of a Volvo 70.
So there. I did it. I wrote about sailing the entire piece. Very happy about that. We still have a lot of sailing to go on this leg, but we are four days into this leg and reporting that all is good on board is a huge relief. I bet to all involved with the program.
Puma Ocean Racing website