Passing the 2000 mile mark this morning, covering this ground in 120 hours, B&Q's average boat speeds have been steadily climbing since 1200GMT to 20+ knots in the last three hours. The clouds are still causing problems on the race track, bringing extremes both in direction and pressure: 'The wind direction has gone completely ballistic. Think it's more to do with the clouds...suddenly shifted 40 degrees!' The stress of the first five days of racing were compounded by Ellen's frustration at not being able to come to grips with the record itself: 'Spent a long time going over Joyon's positions and his average speeds and things. I needed to get a grip of that...'
B&Q is approximately 175 miles NE of the Cape Verde Islands and should pass to the west of the islands before midnight tonight. Joyon was 450 miles east of B&Q's track on day 6, tucked in close to the North African shore and sailing a significantly more direct course to the ultimate destination. IDEC finally gybed at approx 18 N / 18 W (approx 180 miles down the race track), heading west by south to track through the middle of the Cape Verde Islands. Taking advantage of the ideal wind direction, Joyon was not troubled by the risks of wind shadow or changes in wind pressure caused by the effects of the land.
Ellen's next major concern will be the Doldrums - a weather phenomenon found a few degrees north and south of the Equator that can deliver periods of frustrating no wind or violent rain squalls : 'We haven't had any really big squall clouds yet, but they're just coming - I can see them on the horizon. It's going to be a pretty tough few days coming up to the Equator.' B&Q may feel the first affects of the Doldrums by Sunday and Commanders' Weather are still predicting B&Q to cross the Equator on Tuesday (7.12.04) - Ellen's 9th day into the record. Joyon made the Equator in 9 days, 8 hours, 23 minutes - the clock never stops ticking...
ELLEN LOG - 1100 GMT:
Been checking all the rigging, all the pulleys, adjusted the gennaker halyard, let off some tension on the halyard which involves going to the end of the bow...trying to prevent things going wrong later on down the track.
I'm alright, much more into it than I was. Spent a long time going over Joyon's positions and his average speeds and things. I needed to get a grip of that, as I think we are going to have a slow approach to the Doldrums and I noticed that on his way back up the Atlantic he only averaged 11 knots over a 10 day period - this makes me feel better to know it!
I had a very fast night with 15 to 18 knots of breeze, but now the wind direction has gone completely ballistic. Think it's more to do with the clouds so going to keep up the gennaker for a while. Suddenly shifted 40 degrees! There has been a lot of clouds, and that's not helping so been significantly slower. We need to get more west [of south] at some stage so using this to do it right now. Should be genoa not gennaker, sure direction will come back soon.
I felt nervous this morning but I think that happens after good sleep, and good dreaming! My breakfast is porridge this morning as I didn't anticapte it being so hot (or so south) so quickly, so day 6 rations are still porridge. It's a bit too hot really!
EXCERPTS FROM ELLEN AUDIO 1300 GMT :
How are things on board?
'We're between the Canaries and the Cap Verdes, so were sailing with wind from the east with gennaker and full main. It's relatively calm on board and it's ok until we get a gust then we have to be very careful not to have too much load in the sails and I have to be really vigilant and ready to ease out the lines. So it's been a lot of up and down out of the cockpit over the last few days, just being ready to ease things when the wind increases. We haven't had any really big squall clouds yet, but they're just coming - I can see them on the horizon. It's going to be a pretty tough few days coming up to the Equator.'
Tell us about the problem yesterday?
'We've had a bit of an issue with the rudder cassette box, we got hit pretty hard by a wave at Ushant and it seemed to make the box, the cassette that the rudder sits in, move slightly in its case. I've sailed 25,000 miles with this in situ and it's been absolutely fine, but now it seems that it wants to play up and we've had about a 1mm of movement in the box. I lifted the box yesterday completely out of the water, slowed down, pulled up the rudder, checked it all out and there is no serious problems - it's mainly just the fact that it's wobblying a bit. But I've made some wedges up and they're all in place now so we're going to monitor its progress as we head south.'
How long did it take you to fix it?
'I had the rudder out of the water for about 45 minutes. We probably didn't lose too much boat speed - we were still moving about 8 or 9 knots during that period, so it probably cost us about 5 miles which isn't too bad at this stage. It was good to lift it up and to see what the situation was and to actually check it out properly.'
Have you been able to think about the Vendée Globe?
'I do think of the Vendee and I've been discussing it with the weather routers, they've just been through the South Atlantic and for me it's the next step of the journey after the Doldrums, so we have been talking about it. And I learnt yesterday evening about Alex Thompson's problem with his gooseneck and the fact that he's going to have to head north to try and repair it. I do hope for him he's able to repair it and set off again but it sounds like pretty major damage, so we'll see how things are and how he does but it must be a big shock for him.'
High pressure from near the western portion of the Bay of Biscay extends SSW to another center close to 35N/25W. Decent trade winds to work with and will have winds today from the ENE to NE between 14-20 knots. Best wind likely to be between 24-25W and will move mainly S and SSW along this area to take advantage of the good breeze.
High pressure will stay in the same general area next couple of days. May have a few knots less wind on Saturday, but still likely to be 12-18 knots. The better wind on Saturday will be near and west of 25W and our goal will be to come close to 15N/25-26W.
Lighter wind will then be on tap Sunday night and Monday as we reach the Doldrums. The lighter wind zone will be generally be between 4-8N and will likely be smallest between 25-27W. Once south of 3-4N, should have better winds once again as we progress towards the Equator, likely reaching there on Tuesday.