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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Dafydd Hughes: favorable conditions and impeccable strategy in the Global Solo Challenge

by Margherita Pelaschier 8 Sep 03:50 PDT 8 September 2023
Dafydd Hughes © Dafydd Hughes

The first competitor of the Global Solo Challenge, Dafydd Hughes, set off from A Coruña nearly two weeks ago. The weather conditions have been favorable so far, but it's also worth noting that his navigation has been impeccable.

So, let's not confuse his excellent progress with mere luck. His precise trajectory and almost straight path along the traditional route are signs of a solid approach to the strategy for this event, taking into account the performance of his boat, which is the slowest in the event. Bendigedig, a S&S 34, is not a boat made for planing and generally maintains an average speed of 5-6 knots for most of the journey. According to estimates, the theoretical time required for his circumnavigation should be around 202 days. Since his departure, projections on his total time have varied between 188 and 206 days, depending on the speeds recorded day by day. This indicates that Dafydd is perfectly in line with expectations for his boat, conducted at its best.

Off the Canary Islands, Dafydd narrowly avoided a ridge of flat calms that threatened to interrupt his excellent progress. Currently, he is sailing in the flow of the Trade Winds, which traditionally make sailors' lives easier by blowing from the northeast in the northern hemisphere. The next challenge awaiting him is to best navigate the Intertropical Convergence Zone, better known as the Doldrums or Pot au Noir.

In recent days, a cyclone that had generated on the warm and humid waters of the convergence zone of the northern and southern Trade Winds created a complex weather situation and variable winds around the Cape Verde Islands. Now that cyclone, which sometimes leads to the formation of hurricanes, is heading towards the Caribbean Sea, and the winds around the islands have returned to their seasonal norm.

It's likely that Dafydd will slow down a bit as he faces the challenges of the Doldrums and looks for the best route south beyond the Saint Helena high-pressure system. He will certainly feel a "rubber band effect", as if the time required for his circumnavigation stretches out. However, once he reaches a latitude of about 35 degrees south, he will enter the Southern Oceans. There, he will find himself in the carousel of the southern depressions, with more challenging conditions but allowing him to achieve higher average daily speeds. This will be the time to accumulate miles, preparing for potentially slower days and calm periods as he approaches the final stretch of his journey, returning north in the Atlantic.

From the outset, Dafydd has been very open in describing every aspect of his project, sharing all the steps towards realizing his dream. Even now, as he sails, he continues to send updates and photos from his fantastic boat, Bendigedig. When asked by the organization about his first days at sea, Dafydd recounted:

"Here, in the heart of the Atlantic, everything is going wonderfully well. I am fully enjoying every single moment spent at sea. I've been lucky: the Wind Gods have been favorable to me, which has certainly made things easier. The start of the race is a moment that will remain etched in my mind and heart for a long time. It was incredibly moving to share that first milestone with my family, who were there, near the starting line, on a rib. Of course, when I saw them return to land and I was left alone at sea, I felt a lump in my throat. I know it will be a long time before I can see them again, but I am aware that by realizing my dream, I will also make them happy and proud."

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