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27 March 2005, 08:01 pm
Hunting For Wind And Eggs
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Oryx Quest 2005

Since the early days of planning the Oryx Quest 2005, the anticipated weather in the Indian Ocean has been a constant topic of conversation. Unlike most 'conventional' around-the-world races, the Oryx Quest 2005 transits the length of the Indian Ocean and not the Atlantic, and it is the Indian that has dished up the most surprises, and the most tactical challenges.
On the way south it was debris from the tsunami that caused concern and may have been the deciding factor in Geronimo's withdrawal after they struck a solid object while sailing at speed. Now, as the boats head north, there are different concerns, most of them tropical in nature as it is cyclone season in the Southern Hemisphere and these dangerous storms bring their own unease. It is a pity that Geronimo and Cheyenne are not still racing; the tactical opportunities have been numerous and would have certainly made the racing more interesting. Perhaps too interesting for Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his crew on Doha 2006 as they hunt down the million dollar prize and the prestige of winning the inaugural Oryx Quest.

Since turning north out of the Southern Ocean it has been a minefield of weather obstacles for the crew of the Qatari catamaran. They were originally forced way south of Cape Town by two obstinate high pressure systems, and now as they sail north, they are being sent on a circuitous route up the Indian to evade Tropical Cyclone Hennie. Their course has been a wide arc to avoid either potentially dangerous gale force winds, or potentially frustrating clams. Now that they have passed the Mauritius waypoint and are just over 1,000 miles south of the equator the way ahead does not look any easier.

THOMPSON reports from Doha 2006. 'Up ahead the weather routing is suggesting a very easterly course up the Indian Ocean, almost out to 80E, and then up to the east of the Chagos Islands and perhaps even east of the Maldives. We are going to be passing our outward track pretty soon and completing an around-the-world voyage before we even finish.. Chagos to Chagos. In the current forecasts there is certainly more wind to the east, especially in four or five days time, so we are persisting with our upwind strategy for now to set us up for some nice reaching conditions ahead. If we crack off now we will soon be upwind all the way to the finish.'

Fortunately that part of the Indian Ocean is one of the most beautiful for sailing and although the crew on Doha 2006 are still racing as hard as they can, they will surely take some time to enjoy the brilliant turquoise water and warm tropical evenings on board. They will also be secure in the knowledge that these are their final few days at sea and although the tug of life on land is strong, the simple pleasure of sailing around the world must be savoured.

In a different ocean, still thumping downwind at full speed, Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his crew on Daedalus are also savouring their time at sea. It is Easter Sunday and BULLIMORE has opted to cook his crew a belting hot curry to warm their chilled bones. In a brief satellite phone call BULLIMORE discussed lunch plans. 'It's my turn to cook and I an going to make one of my famous curries,' he said. 'We are very low on ingredients but we do have some canned beef and some nice curry powder that my wife Lalal and I bought in Doha a few days before the start. We are going to enjoy the meal thinking about all the fine spicy meals I had when I was last in South Africa which, by the way, is now less than 600 miles away.' Had the wind been blowing from the northeast rather than the southwest, BULLIMORE and his team might have been able to smell the pungent Malay curries being prepared on the Cape Peninsula as the local people prepare their special meal this Sunday morning.

Brian Hancock (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Doha 2006:© Quest International Sports
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