by Amory Ross
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 18 of the second stage of Leg 4. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:
Casey Smith and Brad Jackson scout the clouds for signs of squalls and rain. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
'Do you think it’s time for the last clean shirt?' Rome Kirby.
There are very few things in this world I hate. Alarm clocks. Creamed spinach. Spiders. Ghost stories. Tequila. The Boston Red Sox. Well, effective immediately – I’m adding clouds. I hate clouds. They’re beautiful and they do look like ice cream, I know, but I still hate them.
They’re either your best friend or your worst enemy and, regrettably, we’ve been making a lot of new enemies. It has been two consecutive nights of raincloud induced agony, and the frightening thing is that this problem has dogged us since Alicante. We have an uncanny attraction to windless holes at night in the midst of big oceans.
These continued troubles have cost us at least one spot in the standings within the final 700 miles of a three-week leg, too. Telefónica has worked up and in front of us with stronger winds and faster angles to our west, and Camper look to be doing the same. Our two hate-provoking drift-offs have combined for a net standstill of around seven or eight hours, and that’s a lot of lost progress to give up to anybody in this race.
Even with the light of a full moon and the power of sophisticated radar, avoiding 'sucker' clouds at night can be tricky. For one, it’s dark; dark clouds don’t necessarily stand out on the horizon. Unless there’s precipitation in the form of rain, radar has trouble distinguishing a benign cloud from a malicious one. So you stay aware, monitor the radar, stick to your heading, and hope for the best. Our 'best' hasn’t exactly worked out, and we are where we are.
Not to worry though. From here on out the race slows down and becomes more 'tack-tical' (lots of tactically significant tacking). We’ve got 11 guys extremely anxious to get to New Zealand and a few more days of upwind opportunity – racing that’s chock full of passing lanes, too. Please don’t count us out yet!
Puma Ocean Racing website