Two thousand miles to the northwest tightly packed isobars on a weather map show a deepening trough of low pressure spinning their way. The system, both from the weather chart and satellite images, show all the signs of a developing tropical cyclone and one that had BULLIMORE and his team squarely in its sights. It may not all be bad news though. This depression, unlike TS Hennie, is approaching from the east and will usher in powerful southerly winds as it gathers steam over warm water. The trick for BULLIMORE and his onshore routers is to position themselves to take full advantage of the system as it approaches, remembering at all times that they might be dealing with a potentially dangerous storm.
With the slow progress currently being made by Daedalus and the fact that the new low is still moving slowly, much can change in the next few days. It will, however, make their transit of the south Indian Ocean much more interesting.
For Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his crew on Doha 2006 nothing has changed. They are still banging upwind in stuffy tropical conditions as they skirt the edge of an area of high pressure centered over India. THOMPSON noted the tropical depression to his south in his daily log. 'Overall we are making good progress at completing our voyage and have managed to skirt around the edge of two tropical systems just this week,' he wrote. 'The first was Cyclone Hennie that was centred over Mauritius, and the other we passed two days ago at 10 degrees south. This one is slowly spinning up into a potential cyclone and trundling westwards. It's certainly going to be an influence on Daedalus and I hope that it will help them shoot north without significant headwinds, up it's west side. We went through some of the outlying thunderstorm bands of this depression and had some impressive squalls and lightning displays.'
Doha 2006 is now north of the Maldive Islands sailing parallel to the coast of India, some 350 miles to the east of the Qatari catamaran. They are approaching another set of coral attols sailing an almost reciprocal course to their outbound track. Back then they were in a close race with Olivier DE KERSAUSON (FRA) on Geronimo, but now they are alone, although they did sight the running lights of a ship which THOMPSON noted rather poignantly in his log. 'Yesterday night we saw the lights of a passing ship, the first since Uruguay, 22 days ago. Otherwise its just the 13 of us, our two hulls, and the ocean.'
The headwinds are forecast to last for another three or four days, weakening as they approach the Gulf of Oman. In the next few hours they will be getting their first sign that they are getting closer to the finish as they sail into the Arabian Sea. From there it will be on to the Gulf of Oman, still some 900 miles away, before having to deal with fickle breezes in the Strait of Hormuz.
A watch has been posted to keep a sharp eye out for flotsam left over from the tsunami. During their outbound passage the ocean was littered with boat-damaging debris, but so far THOMPSON reports that the sea is danger free. At the 0700 hours GMT poll on Friday morning Doha 2006 was just over 1,500 miles from the finish; an easy three days sailing in the Southern Ocean. Unfortunately they are not in the Southern Ocean and it is likely to take them twice that long especially if they encounter the same variable conditions in the Strait as they did two months ago. The last days are always the most trying and each of the crew on board are drawing on their experience and sense of humour to take it one day at a time, one watch at a time.