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24 March 2005, 11:51 am
Skirting Hennie
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Oryx Quest 2005

Tropical cyclone Hennie is moving south very slowly packing sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts in excess of 60 knots. For now the storm is moving as forecast, but in the next few hours it's track will change to head more to the southeast where potentially it could cause some trouble for Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his crew on Doha 2006.
In a satellite phone call navigator Will OXLEY (AUS) described the situation. 'We have made good progress through the night,' he said. 'We kept good wind and have made excellent ground to the east. We are about a hundred miles from the point where we will finally be able to turn north and head in a more direct course for the finish. It hasn't been good for making distance toward Doha, but the sailing has been really pleasant.'

The easting has allowed them to put roughly 500 miles between the centre of the storm and themselves, enough distance, they hope, to avoid the worst of the gale force winds associated with the cyclone.

In the southern hemisphere it is best to attempt to pass a cyclone to the west and at all costs avoid the dangerous quadrant to the southeast. Unfortunately given the fact that the island of Mauritius is a mark of the course this option was all but closed for THOMPSON and his team.

The wind being generated by a storm like Hennie comes from two sources; the actual wind circulating around the centre of the system and the apparent wind being generated by the forward movement of the storm. In the southern hemisphere winds rotate clockwise around the centre of the cyclone. If you are to the east, like Doha 2006, you can expect to get winds from the north. The wind strength is tempered by the forward movement of the storm. As it tracks to the south the wind on the eastern side increases (wind strength plus forward movement of the storm) while on the western side it decreases (wind strength less forward movement of the storm). In a normal situation the wind difference can be as much as 20 knots which can make the difference between a bad storm and a lethal cyclone.

As THOMPSON and his crew on Doha 2006 tiptoe around the edge of the system they may be spared the brunt of the storm, but they will not find the going easy. The wind will be from the north providing headwinds and the sea state may be rough. The effects of a tropical storm can be felt over a 1,000 miles away as the constant gale force winds push massive amounts of water that drive short, steep waves out ahead of it. These waves, combined with headwinds are sure to make life a bit miserable on board the Qatari catamaran.

For now, however, the conditions are ideal as OXLEY describes in his latest update. 'Having punched through the high pressure yesterday morning we have been sailing upwind in relatively light airs on the northern side of the high trying to maximize our easting in a gentle sea state and breeze,' he wrote. 'We are trying to get east of 70E and hopefully as far east as 74E. We have worked hard and are now nearly at 68E. Our boat speed averages have been between 12 and 16 knots, but our speed towards Doha hovers between one and six knots! In twelve hours or so we will have made enough easting to turn a little further north. Until we are well north of the storm we will not know if our strategy has been successful. Our biggest concern is the sea state that will be generated by Hennie, which is why we are making the most of the light air at the moment to head east.'

In the South Atlantic Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his team on Daedalus continue to eat into Doha 2006's lead. At the 0700 hours GMT poll on Thursday morning Daedalus was at the precise longitude and latitude where Doha 2006 was on 14 March. Their position is roughly 350 miles south of Tristan de Cunha as they continue sailing east in the Roaring Forties.

Daedalus should pass south of South Africa during the upcoming Easter weekend and enter the Indian Ocean early next week.

Brian Hancock. Image, TS Hennie:© Quest International Sports
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