While the sailing may have been fast, it has not been easy as BULLIMORE described in his daily log. 'The last 24 hours have been traumatic,' he wrote. 'We have been going straight down our track, doing around 20 knots. One minute we are running a bit deep and we then slow down to around 15 knots and then the helmsman heats it up and we are doing 27 to 28 knots. But most of the time we hold the boat on course. We were really flying last night when there was an almighty bang, and within a second we realized that the Gennaker halyard had failed. This had happened before and although one or two of the guys are saying the rope is on the old side etc, the fact is, if you suddenly heat up the boat, the sail and halyard, and the sheets for that matter, go under a tremendous point load and that is when you get some of the breakages. To put it simply, if you put too much load on the rope, or any other component on the boat, it will break. Everything has a safe working load, and a breaking load. One needs to understand this. One needs to work within guidelines or gut feelings that get more reliable with the experience of sailing these incredible racing machines.'
The weather pattern for Daedalus is much different than it was for the crew of Doha 2006 who passed this way ten days ago. At this point in the race Doha 2006 was a further 400 miles south and heading deeper, forced that way by a persistent ridge of high pressure. The only high within range is 3,000 miles to the east of Daedalus getting squashed by the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Hennie. With any luck BULLIMORE and his team will be able to skirt inside the region and sail a more direct course for the Mauritius turning mark.
They have now taken well over a 1,000 miles out of Doha 2006, but that is all about to change. The Qatari catamaran has found some fair weather and is 'heading for the barn' as they say in sailing circles. Fraser BROWN (NZL) on board Doha 2006 noted the change of course in his daily log. 'On my last watch we did have some good news from the nav station asking us to come down 10 degrees,' he wrote. 'This gives us a slightly better angle on the waves and on average is a little quicker.'
After five days of relentless upwind bashing, sailing off course, it is a relief to finally ease sheets and make some distance toward the finish now less than 3,000 miles away.
The storm that was Tropical Cyclone Hennie is still moving south and has weakened as it passed over cooler waters. The US-based tropical storm agency did an outstanding job of forecasting both the strength and direction of the cyclone and their detailed analysis allowed Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his crew to pass the tropical low in relative safety. They might have been safe, but it was not a smooth ride as BROWN described in his log. 'It's hard to explain what we have been dealing with over the last few days,' he wrote. 'Everything is difficult from sleeping to cooking, going to the toilet, and even just standing up or trying to put on your foul weather gear without wiping out. There is also a big difference in the motion depending on what side of the boat you are on. Because we are on starboard tack the port hull, which is 50 feet away, spends most of it's time lurching giving you a backwards motion as it is effectively always trying to catch up to the windward hull. This lurching motion is so intense that we are now sleeping with our heads facing forwards. This is usually bad practice, but in this case it's completely necessary. I have woken up two times much further down my bunk and would rather have my feet hitting the bulkhead, than my head.'
The standard practice on a maxi-multihull is always to sleep feet first. These boats travel at high speeds, sometimes in excess of 40 knots. A collision with a solid object will bring the boat to a sudden, crashing standstill, catapulting the crew forward. If someone is sleeping head forward, the impact of their head hitting the bulkhead could be catastrophic. So feet first it is, unless, as Fraser Brown described in his log, a different set of circumstances presents itself.
The weather ahead still looks complicated for THOMPSON and his crew. The area between where they are now sailing and the Gulf of Oman is usually dominated by high pressure with a clockwise air circulation. This means more upwind sailing for Doha 2006 as they skirt by the eastern side of the high pressure region. THOMPSON and his navigator, Will OXLEY (AUS), have been eyeing the road ahead knowing full well what they are in store for.
'Now our focus turns on to getting to the winds of the northeast monsoon that are blowing down the North Indian Ocean' he wrote. 'That is another windward leg and we will try to set ourselves up to get as far north before starting that long beat to the Straight of Hormuz. Meanwhile all is good on board. Everyone is enjoying a break from the constant motion of going to windward. We are giving the boat are thorough check over and all seems ok.'
Three thousand mile in a maxi-catamaran, even upwind, is about a week's sailing so THOMPSON and his team are looking at an ETA early next week. BULLIMORE on Daedalus, if all goes well, should be sighting the sand dunes of Doha in just under three weeks. The beat goes on. Doha is getting ready to welcome their national entry back home while the multinational crew hunker down for the final slog to the finish.