Stopped Not Racing

Suzie Too - Western Caribbean
David & Suzanne Chappell
Sat 28 Nov 2009 00:00
Today at the Skippers' Briefing I find that I am sailing against 2 other YachtMaster Instructors from the Iles de Glenan Sailing School and people are impressed with my sailing and navigation skills, so I can't tell you how proud I am - to be first among equals with such capable sailors is quite an achievement.

When we sailed down the 60 miles from Dakar to Sine Saloum and came in second after Flying Kefi, the DragonFly trimaran, overtook us 2 or 3 people said "Bon navigation" and told me I have a good eye for sailing and a good strategy on the wind and currents. I know several of the boats have been tracking me on the AIS and keeping notes on my speed and routing decisions.

On the sail from Dakar to Cabo Verde I had been monitoring GRIB files for several days and decided to sail north of the rhumb line for a number of reasons. The wind looked stronger, which as a heavy boat suits us, and it was going to back, which would put us hard on the wind towards the islands, and may then have meant having to route south of Boa Vista, adding extra miles to the voyage.

Once underway we downloaded the position emails we get each day from the RIDS dolink tracker and was I struggling to understand the positions as the first day we were 12, then we went down to 17, then shot up to 4 and the final file showed us at 2, with our speeds higher than the rest of the fleet to the south of us. African Seawing came past us at 10kts on the final afternoon but was sailing even further north than us and we were surprised not to see them in ahead of us, but in the end Frank had sailed 550M and we sailed 473M, only 30M more than the rhumb line.

As the final day closed on our third night at sea, we had to slow down as we had an 0200 arrival, but in the end the wind eased, we had plenty of angle to keep the boat powered up although the currents and the wind acceleration zones between the islands made the sea rather confused, we managed an 0700 arrival, to be greeted with "Bon navigation"

Closing Sao Vicente we had one boat ahead and we passed them over the final miles, later "le Professeur" of Pilhoue V said "and you went past me like an owl in the night" - so poetic our French cousins. In the end it was Dame Oui, Suzie Too, Pilhoue V, African Seawing and Minne B (the fastest Ovni in the fleet), then a collection of Jenneau and Benneteau

Suzie Too has now been moved into a newly created grouping, Group 3 - I asked Patrick, le grande fromage, if we had been promoted or demoted from Group 2, but he confirmed it was a promotion, because of our speed. So the new Group 3 is the 3 Amels, African Seawing (the only cat), Flying Kefi, a Benneteau 47 and a 50, the Northwind 50 and Mina 2 an Oyster 485, skippered by Tim another very capable and experienced skipper. I may have mentioned that a French sailing magazine is doing an article on the performance of the boats on the Rallye, I wonder what they will say about the British boats, the Oyster and the Moody ?

Suzie Too is also the Radio Net Controller for Group 3 - and Minnie B the English/Irish Ovni 395 is doing the same on Group 1, with Francois on Pilhoue V saying he will conduct it all in English for Group 2 and then translate into French - all good fun !

So now we have proved our abilities we can just enjoy the voyage and tick 3 more things off my list - an Atlantic crossing, sailing over the Equator and swimming from the boat at the Equator - I really am going to need a new list.

The only issue left is how deep downwind we can go without a pole, we really should have bought that Parasailor, probably a cheaper option than a pole system and much easier for a crew of 2. After the ITCZ, which we will motor sail through, (no point in waiting to get wacked by all the squalls) we will power up well on these North Sails and romp into Brazil.

We are looking forward to some rain in the ITCZ to clean the boat nicely - it's the dry season in the Tropics so no rain until July or August next year. I have been setting up a strategy and have entered some waypoints and am fairly happy so far and the routing was further confirmed on the Skippers' Briefing today - just a few more brains to pick. Some idiot has also put some rocks in the way, so have to be careful of Sao Pedro & Sao Paul pretty much on the rhumb line.

Then we are all leaving as follows, Group 1 Mon 30 at 1000, Group 2 Tue 1 at 1400 and Group 3 Wed 2 at 0700, some 45 hours behind at 6kts is about 270M. So we will head due south, maybe even making some easting, to cross between 26W and 28W, where the ITCZ should be statistically narrow, and not to get as far as 30W, cos we won't make the bulge of Brazil against the contrary currents and head winds.

Now just waiting for Lisa to join us as crew - a few more provisions - maybe some extra diesel containers ? hmm - we can probably motor 800M but you never know

Best wishes

David & Suzanne