Day 15 Position 15:51.25N 53:45.50W

Gwenhyfar's Travels
Mon 9 Dec 2019 20:52
I was writing the afternoon blog when the shout went out: "All Hands !!" - The routine, well rehearsed by now, consists of the three "off watch" crew stopping what they are doing, whether its sleeping, showering or cooking and immediately putting on life vests with AIS beacons and getting out on deck as fast as possible.

A particularly nasty squall, grey and black and blocking out the light was pushing down behind us. No escape this time - it was going to be a direct hit... UH ooh !

Gwenhyfar was accelerating under heavy green kite and full main sail. David was on the helm and saw the wind speed climb in a few minutes into the low thirties. Peter looked behind and saw massive waves approaching, and then beyond them, was a band of smudged ocean, a mix of spray and stair rod rain. The Kite was tripped and down she came. The foredeck crew smothering the flapping sail with their bodies got it all under control and crushed it into its bag.

Then a truly biblical deluge. We were soaking within seconds. Fresh water spouting off the sails and boom like mountain springs. The wind peaked at 42 knots! Then it was calm for a minute or two as the centre of the big daddy squall passed directly overhead. Then strong gusts and more sheets of rain. Almost as fast as she came it cleared. Now that the drama was contained, we all laughed at each other, soaked to the skin and dripping wet. Only 12 minutes earlier having been dry and showered for the day and enjoying everyday life on board. Today the squall had won the dance off! But Simon had achieved a new Gwenhyfar record speed of 16.5 knots just after the squall.

Jan was Mother and served up a lunch of pesto pasta.

During the quiet afternoon Peter had a catch up with Jan. They sat on the aft poop deck for the now institutional "one on one" chat. Why cross the Atlantic? Jan's answer was simple, "I'm a keen Guernsey sailor. I've raced and rock hopped local waters, then bigger events like Cowes and Fastnets, but never before had the opportunity to do a big Ocean crossing. Its a great challenge, on a fantastic boat and with some very experienced sailors who are not only extremely competent but also good friends. The invitation came last year. I thought now's my opportunity. My family were very supportive and my employer let me take the extra time out. Sailing to the Caribbean is every sailors ultimate challenge. This was not to be missed.

Jan is a modest chap, he is part of the team because not only is he a good friend and proven sailor, he's a wizard with the computer. In the summer he raced with us at our regattas as navigator and tactician. He knows his stuff!

Early morning and late evening he downloads GRIB files from the Iridium satellite communications system. The GRIB file is a data file containing forecast wind, pressure, and wave information for a given area and for a given time period ahead. This forecast is then loaded into a simulation programme that has all the Gwenhyfar data on her sail configurations, "polars" that describe her speed of sailing at different wind angles and different wind speeds. The forecast data is then crunched through the programme and an optimum course to sail is calculated. The skill is then in interpreting this output and giving the helmsmen the appropriate instruction of what direction to steer and the sailing crew of what sails to set. We spend large chunks of our tea, coffee and sundowner breaks discussing forecasts and strategy. More sail, less sail, which course to steer and for how long. Asked what has surprised him most so far about the trip, Jan replies: " I guess it has to be the light winds performance of Gwenhyfar and her directional stability in the bigger seas." "She's a dream to helm, very responsive and light, but she's on rails when it blows up!"

A fabulous risotto dinner with butternut squash and chorizo sausage. Didn't the squash do well? Three meals and still counting... Dessert of tinned peaches followed, then the night watch took command.

A peaceful night and a full moon now lights our path to St Lucia. Dress code; Tee-shirts and shorts for all watch keepers.

Days Run 191 miles
Distance to go: 419