TRANSGLOBE: Ground Hog Day+Valentine’s Day – it’s all here

While Becky and her Army crew on Challenger head for Wellington to get their repairs done, the Royal Navy on Adventure are still managing to keep the RAF & Disco astern!

Mon 15 Feb 2010 10:05 AM GMT

As ever the Southern Ocean is meeting expectations, twice a day as the met fax spills out from Wellington and there is always another Low Pressure System for the skipper and mates to study. As I try and write this blog, there are china-graph marks on the screen of the lap top of some weather analyses!

(start reading from the bottom and work backwards from 14th Feb if you prefer!)

Wednesday 11th AGAIN!! International Date Line crossed- Day 6.

Over the last few days so much has happened, firstly we gained a day when we went across the International Date Line behind the Chatham Islands to the east of New Zealand. We crossed about 0130hrs on Thursday morning which was perfect timing to switch the clocks back and have another Wed 11th of February – our very own ‘Ground Hog Day’. With the average progress being slow due to lighter than expected  winds, a day in hand was welcomed.

With a little water coming in through the forepeak and super structure on the starboard side of the boat there were a few repairs to do to avoid the White Watch’s cabin becoming a paddling pool. Loud banging on the upper deck, a bit of super flex and Clive, Simon and Steve, the mate, were in their element ramming bits of  wood  into annoying little uninhabited screw holes. Steve’s efforts in securing the leaking  ‘hawsepipe bung’ were most appreciated – particularly when we saw the massive goffer (wave) soak him and those who saw the skipper in the forepeak with hands covered in white cream trying to help were completely bemused!  After this there was no rest for the wicked and whilst at 20 Knots, the tools were out to play with Handy Andy Burgess, who was about to confront the broken spinnaker pole head on. For those of you who haven’t read the last blog, this broke on Tuesday, in light airs after  hoisting the 1.5 oz spinnaker. Andy and his band of merry men (and token girl Seaking Junglie Lou) from the Blue watch, cut a 3ft section off the pole and after several hours of cutting, filing and drilling, the prepared cut off  section was resized to fit inside the sleeve to offer more strength.  If we could only send you the photos and videos!! After the initial Blue watch hit, the spinnaker pole was manhandled down the corridor and up the steps (just the job for a submariner captain who, with reversed cap and steely-eyes was already imagining that he was delivering the killer torpedo to the RAF in our rival yacht Discoverer ). Then, all hands on deck to watch or take hold of it as we tried to pile drive it home into the prepared other half pole.. much to the consternation of Paul, our other submariner who was acting as anchor man at the receiving end. 10 thrusts and a shattered wooden buffer later and success! Union! A few more screws and sweat and at 1800 Handy Andy and his successful team became triumphant – the spinnaker pole,  now effectively the pole for the headsails, was taken up on deck to be secured and ready for poling out.

2 hours later at 2000hrs local, that’s 0900 UTC we received  comms from the Army crewed yacht, Challenger.  Very sadly they had developed a problem with the track that keeps the mainsail on the mast, and for them, until definitive repairs were complete, it was decided that their trip further into the Southern Ocean was over.  Both of the other boats closed from their racing positions (i.e. Adventure had to turn back).  We joined them at first light and following  our Skipper  going aloft to inspect out mast and confirming everything was OK,  we passed some spare track across to Challenger before bidding them safe passage back to Wellington in New Zealand.  Obviously sad to  see them go, we tipped our caps to Challenger’s  Fusilers and then set our sights on what is a two-horse race to the Horn!

Thursday 12th Feb Day 7 at Sea

Thursday offered a great day of sailing, where the remaining two boats remained close together, on a parallel course, trying their hardest to cope with the light airs and difficult conditions to gain and maintain the lead. The ‘binos’  were in full use and it wasn’t until later in the day we finally managed  to break free.

8pm-12am shift-  as the wind began to drop off  from the West, Nikki and Skip made a tactical decision to gybe across the race track behind the stern of Disco lying a few miles off our port beam. This would enable us to try and be poised in position for the NW winds we were expecting to fill in. It wasn’t long before Disco’s Tricolour disappeared over the horizon off our starboard quarter and we were poised ready.  The wind played ball, veered by 45 degrees in 4 hours filling in from the NW we were able to capitalise on this by maintaining a better boat speed.   When comms were made with Disco shortly after midnight, it was evident that by avoiding the gybe they  ended up with the a lower position on the race track, with no wind and had been forced to motor for a few hours (Ha!).  Disco now sits to our starboard side and are having to climb to maintain course.   Adventures crew  are in particularly good spirits at seeing Disco behind and obviously the decision to gybe early and the fanatical attention to trimming has paid off and we now have more height,  better VMG (velocity made good) and have a few hours of motoring in the bank! ‘Game on  Adventurer’!

Friday 12th, Day 8 at sea

As I type we have a steady 20 knots of NW true building and expecting to rise to 35k later as a result we are heeled  constantly at a steady 20 degrees. Blue watch are on the controls upstairs, in full “trim to win – snooze to loose” mode,  Steve Pointon’s team’s arrival constantly fiddled with outhauls and halyards which helped put more distance  between us and the our rivals in DISCO.

Moving down through the roaring forties towards the fiercesome fifties,  we haven’t  seen another boat or ship due to us being south of the shipping lanes. That doesn’t seem to bother crew on board ADV, I guess you don’t come down this way unless you are happy with the concept of space. Being able to see Disco again also created an extra air of excitement and competitiveness. Particularly whilst we are in the lead!  Are they shaking a reef out?  Are they sending men forward to dial up the No1? Apart from the fact that we are being buzzed by albatrosses, there is no mainland for about a 1000 miles and we can see the Southern Cross overhead at night, we could almost be racing round the cans in Plymouth. This coupled with some interesting banter between skippers and mates to spice up the day, the ADV crew seem to be on fire to maintain our position on the race track. As I type John, Nick and Clive are in the wet locker with the manuals trying to sort out the new heater which was changed in NZ. With any luck now, as we are on a port tack and water won’t go up the exhaust, we may have a chance of drying out the foulies and boots for the first time. Lunch time at the mo, Red watch are doing a sterling job of cooking up some Vietnamese  noodles and with any luck Laura will make some more chocolate muffins and delicious bread to keep spirits high for the wet crew!  So there is always something to do down here but you can safely say we are living the dream.

…but what is living the dream?….

Well, for a start, after a week at sea, we are all a bit damp. The weather at the moment is not too cold for comfort but the rain comes at least once every watch as a weather front passes over us. Foulies have been tested and the rapidity of “goffers” (getting drenched by a large wave on deck) is increasing and makes sail changing, reefing etc more interesting..and wet. Everyone is getting used to living life on an incline! Cooking, washing, sleeping  and just getting around the boat is an effort and the men, despite resorting to beard growing, have discovered their feminine sides.. by having to sit on the heads (toilet) on occasions as there is a limit to the accuracy of their aiming! The fruit supply, rapidly disappearing, is a continual hazard, suspended over the dining area and prone to disgorge its contents during heavy seas, sending bruised apples and oranges onto those below eating a meal.

The watch system is up and running and the reality of being woken up every 4 hours  to go on watch is finally being realised and is only surpassed by the privilege of being “mother watch” every third day for 24 hrs. Mother watch essentially are there to deliver meals, drinks (“wets”) and to clean up the boat.. and when the need for a sail change occurs, to help the on-watch team on deck. Baking bread has been a new experience for some and the results variable, with Clive winning the trophy so far for the” anchor” that he produced – even the albatross that took it is still “grounded”!  The only bonus of mother watch is the shower – a 2 minute wonder (despite the ability to make water it is still very much at a premium and restricted) that is ecstasy for 30mins before you’re back into the watch on deck and sweating gallons into your old unwashed clothing.  Variety is the spice of life and the pusser (Simon) has done well to get all his favourite things for the trip and in true pussers style is guarding them with his life. We have a 7-day recurring menu in theory but this can be changed as the situation dictates – even more complicated when we have two Wednesdays in a week as we did this week!

Despite most being stretched, and some being put outside their comfort zone,  everyone on board is doing well and squaring up to the challenge  of staying ahead of  Discoverer. The watches are gelling and there is already a degree of good-humoured rivalry at the quality of cooking, sail trimming and speed etc. Our three resident ‘pongoes’ (Army chaps) give as much banter as they get and are now undecided as to whether they are matelot “wan’abees”, matelot “should’abeens” or matelot “gon’abees”. Clive, Mr Innuendo continues to surprise himself by not being seasick whilst adding humour to the show , Frankie enjoys the cooking and most importantly the eating of the novel menus and is one of the powerhouses on the winches, whilst  John, still looking for the Golden Rivet, spends a lot of the time in the engine space as the “engineer”.  All of us, both Navy and Army are united in our desire to take line honours at the Horn from the ‘crabs’ (RAF) and as darkness falls and Discoverer disappears over the horizon behind us, morale is high although we all know that we have a long way to go to the Cape yet and the weather will no doubt throw more at us before we do.  A midday inter-ship Quiz with Disco on the VHF on topics Harry potter and Formula 1 racing included questions such as What team did Enzo Ferrari manage? Who was the first team to field its cars painted entirely in the sponsors colours? You ll be glad to know ADV won the first round!

Saturday 13th Feb Day 9

Day 1500 miles done so a 1/3 of way to the Horn- well done Red watch for claming the 1500 mile stake. They also got the 500 miler, whilst Blue watch got the 1000 miler. Plenty of those still up for grabs we feel!  Looking like 1st/ 2nd of March for rounding the Horn currently. We went through another time zone tonight, so if you are in the UK we are now  11 hours behind  you.

Sunday 14th Day 10 Valentines Day

White watch treated us to a fried breakfast a marvellous day of sailing was had with Disco now 60 miles North of us on 47 degrees Lat. Heart shape breads were made and spirits were high as blue skies gave rise to ‘dobe’ drying and some sailing under full main and  the ‘one yankee’ poled out. Clive managed 15.2 Knots on the Helm although the highest is still 19.2 by Dave on White watch. As I type there is some loud laughing in the galley from Red watch preparing a lovely smelling green thai curry, White watch are in their racks resting and Blue watch are togged up trying to keep warm whilst sailing on 20 knots true due East with Steve P on the Helm.

Keep up to date with the blogs coming in to the official event website – the website versions include all the very personal ‘shout outs’ (messages to loved ones) as well : http://www.exercisetransglobe.com

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