Racing the weather!

Chiscos - Atlantic Cruise
John Simpson
Mon 28 May 2012 11:58
38:43.572n 034:38.091w
Based on our trip from BVI to Bermuda we had hoped to be in Horta by Tuesday night (tomorrow) but for reasons we can't quite fathom we are travelling slightly slower on this trip. We now estimate to be there around Wednesday lunchtime (that will be 2 weeks since we left Bermuda so still a respectable effort we think).  Looking at the weather yesterday there was a huge low pressure, with gale force winds sat right on top of our approach to the Azores forecast for...yes you guessed it, Wednesday morning!  We then spent a few moments working out that if we managed to sail at an average of at least 6 knots an hour for the final 350 miles we would hopefully be able to just whip around the edge of it and therefore miss the worst of the weather.  Any slower and we would get caught right in the action so we are spending every minute watching the GPS and hoping that the wind doesn't die!  At the moment however, we are on track and the forecast today looks slightly better but, it will still be tight and we are preparing ourselves for a very windy final 48 hours.  Luckily most of the other boats will be tucked up in Horta by the time we arrive but there are a group of 3 American boats behind us who are sailing together for moral support.  The good thing we've discovered about these weather systems is that they have been moving pretty swiftly, so if there is heavy weather you can be fairly sure it won't stick around for long. 
We had a fun night's sailing the night before last.   We were all hoping to catch up on some decent sleep as the swell was calm and winds moderate, it was the most stable the boat has been so far.  Until about midnight that is.  It did get slightly windier but the main thing was that from absolutely nowhere the sea became a monster! The swell was just huge (and luckily behind us), it was picking our backside up, surfing us down the waves and then screwing us up into wind.  It was a really uncomfortable motion down below, feeling like each wave was just going to pick us up and tip us over.  Our poor hydrovane could not cope at all so we put a couple of reefs in the sails and stuck the autopilot on.  These seas stayed with us the rest of the night and most of the day yesterday.  We were also visited by a large pod of dolphins yesterday, we thought they might have stayed at home in such stormy seas but they seemed to have great fun jumping out of the waves chasing the boat!!
The sea is now much calmer, it's amazing how quickly the sea state can change. We have the parasailor up in a steady force 4 so all is now comfortable on board and we are well and truly counting down the miles to Horta.  282 to go!