Thursday, December 06, 2007

Spirit of Canada and Great American III in BtoB Race

In an overnight message, Rich Wilson, sailing Great American III says how tough it has been to be stuck in the doldrums. In the black of the ocean night, he saw a light in the distance. As the shot from Google Earth shows it had to be Derek Hatfield sailing the Spirit of Canada. The two were in reality very close. Derek is sailing without radar, antennae, or weather reports, after many faulty autopilot-induced broaches, and computer damage.

"Learning to sail in Marblehead, Massachusetts, known for its light air, I became quite adept at being able to make a boat accelerate and increase its own apparent wind in 5 knots, or 7 knots or even 3 knots of wind. It was not a frustration for me, it was an intereting challenge at which I could succeed. But 0 knots of wind, that was different. I couldn't do anything with 0 knots of wind. And that is what we've had this past night. 0 knots on the apparent wind speed, and the true wind speed. And 0.00 knots on the boatspeed. Now THIS is frustrating. Earlier in the afternoon, I had a quite nice soft sail for a bit in a kind northwesterly, yes, northwesterly breeze in the easterly trades. This does not compute. How to get out of here? As with each of my 8 previous times crossing the equator under sail (5 Atlantic, 2 Pacific, 1 South China Sea),
the goal has always been to go due true North or due true South when you got to the doldrums. Like crossing a street, it's shorter if you go perpendicular. But now, in the past early morning hours, an edge of a breeze has sprung up, and I am tacking north, tacking on the shifts, just like a one-design race in Marblehead. You can't just go straight across, even with an easterly wind expectation. It is very bizarre, and the zeros on the instruments were very frustrating. A
short time ago, with a crystal clear patch of stars, I saw a light ahead, not range lights of a ship, but a single light. Think it might be Derek who has admirably hung in there with, I think, pilot and computer problems, and come back strongly after being off the position list for a few sessions. If it's him, Go Derek! Onwards. Northward. For both of us."

click on image for larger view. - Ralph