By Sam Goodchild
We've just passed the 2 weeks at sea mark and the second week has been drastically different to the first, as expected I guess. The Transat Jacques Vabre has split into 3 fairly nice sections for us:
- Week 1 - Aim to get away from the beginning of the winter low pressure systems, put the suncream on and hit the trade winds.
- Week 2 - Aim to get through the doldrums and out the other side of the biggest gamble of the race.
- Week 3 - The finish!
The more manageable conditions of the trade winds have allowed us to get our heads around the boat, build confidence in the boat and be able to find her limits a bit more... well getting over the constant fear of 'what could break?' that overwhelmed the first week.
We hit the doldrums 50 miles behind second to last place, and fortunately we had some very kind clouds and were able to pull up alongside the 2 boats in front of us. I imagine this was pretty frustrating for them - but that's not our problem for now! :) After wiggling our way through the squall clouds and calm spots, we found
ourselves 200 metres away from Matmut, which was the start of an on-going 1500 mile drag race south. We found some unexpected speed (and some sail problems aboard Matmut) and have managed to pull away from them a bit. We've also pulled ahead of Bureau Vallee, who are suffering from leaving the doldrums further west (downwind) than us.
Onboard, things are still going well, we've settled into a bit of a routine. We do watches of 3hrs each at night, so aiming to get 5-6 hours sleep each. Then the day time is a bit more flexible, catching up on the other necessities, with a siesta each depending how peaceful the previous night was.
Last night was rather different! - The most exciting/busy night so far. A very unstable wind meant we spent a lot of time trimming and adjusting things to keep going the right way and the right speed. Then, out of the blue, the helm locks, we bear away and gybe. We're then sat with the keel, outrigger and stack (spare sails, food and clothes that we store down below) under water on the wrong side - still with the helm locked. It took a while to find the hydraulic autopilot ram had locked up, probably from getting wet. We swapped to the spare and got on our way - asking why these things only ever arrive at 3 in the morning!
Other than that we have been nursing a small hydrogenerator problem which became a fuel shortage because we were charging with the engine more than predicted. We now have have a jury rig system in place that allows us to get some charge into the batteries a few times a day - but being careful not to overheat and have a similar problem to that onboard Bureau Vallee. With about 5 days to go we are, fingers crossed, under control.