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The Doldrums

  • Nov
    23

    I think that we're through the doldrums, finally. Yesterday was a bad day. We sailed into the doldrums in the dark of the morning, under a cloud so black and foreboding that it seemed as though we were entering a tunnel or cave. We got through, but then it started to get light as the sun rose, and by mid-morning we had 0.0 boatspeed. The sails were slatting (flapping around and not filled with wind), and this is very bad for them. Eventually I rolled up the solent to save it.

    These conditions were very frustrating, since I knew that the front of the fleet had gone straight through the doldrums without such difficulties. Then late in the afternoon we got a little wind from a black cloud moving to the west, which we chased it at 2 knots. We tagged along with the cloud, going whereever it was going. Then some rain, took a shower, then a bit of wind, and then.... a torrential downpour with a big squall, wind blowing, water blowing, had solent and a reef, and suddenly (hadn't seen this since 1993) the wind reversed direction 180 degrees in an instant. It blew the mainsail and solent back into the mast and runners, and up against the boom vang/preventer, blowing the vang fuse.

    I was hand steering and tried to jam the tiller back to have the boat gybe back, and since the keel was now on the wrong side we were laying right over at about 60 degrees, the boat turned rapidly. The wind stayed in its relative direction, and we did, I believe, 1.5 circles with the boat. The wind had gone around in a circle with us and kept the boat pinned. It happened in 1993 on the trimaran, but I haven't seen it since. It's an incredibly scary situation since the boat is completely out of control, it's blowing, it's torrentialy downpouring, there's no help, and you know that at the end of the manoeuver there is going to be a huge crash as the boat gybes. Eventually it did, but it was very difficult and very scary. The good new is that everything except the fuse on the vang held together.

    Then into the night, we finally stabilized the boat a few hours later (still in the doldrums) using the staysail and 2 reefs in the main. The weather files showed 5-10 knots of wind, but instead we had 33 knots across the deck and we sailed hard on the wind with the boat laying over, again hoping everything holds together against the big strain. But these are the doldrums, and anything can happen.

    This morning, we're under full sail, full cant, full board, making 9.5 knots upwind in pursuit. Ocean Vital Foundation, skippered by Raphaël Dinelli, caught up with us yesterday. I can see them to windward, and maybe we can catch them back.