Day 29 of the Volvo Ocean Race and the boats are eagerly anticipating their arrival in Cape Town, South Africa. Ross Field, navigator of News Corp, explains the burdens of the navigator in a way that almost anybody outside sailing society can understand:
"I am sure that every parent, who has taken their children on a long trip, will appreciate what every navigator is going thru, right now, with the endless questions: When will we be there? What time will we arrive? Where are we staying? I am hungry..." He is simply talking about ETA, the Estimated Time of Arrival, one of the most discussed topics in the race.
There is one big contradiction about the ETA, the more precisely it is set, the higher the probability that it is wrong because it is the extrapolation of the past into an uncertain future with the assumption of stable conditions. It is basically the answer to the simple question, when will the yachts be in port?
Deprived of the basic delights of life ashore and all aware of the length of time still remaining on the water, each crewmember focuses on what he or she considers to be the fundamentals of human existence, with varying results.
The most rudimentary requirement is of course, eating: "Burgers would be great on the dock, or even better finish early in the morning and have a huge breakfast with heaps of sausages and baked beans, having a damn good wash in steaming hot water, sleeping in a nice bed for 10 hours and wearing nice clean dry clothes," as Jon "Gundy" Gundersen reveals.
Others try to make money out of virtually everything as Juan Vila writes, "As it is now usual on illbruck, before 1000 miles to the finish each crew has to bet on an arrival date and time. Whoever is the closest takes the money."
For others, simply the space on board is getting too confined and they long to see other faces: "Obviously fingers were pointed directly to Cheese [Dirk de Ridder] based on the goings on over the last few weeks. Cheese however had a scapegoat in Rossco [Ross Halcrow] whom he had struck a deal with," as happened on illbruck challenge.
On djuice, after food was replenished during the pit-stop at Fernando de Noronha, the second most urgent needs erupted: "My watch mate Jonas is not too happy these days because his girlfriend Anna is way ahead of us at the moment," stated one djuice dragon, and Jonas would not be the only one in the fleet thinking of the opposite sex.
It is not only those onboard that are thinking of the next stop, however. djuice's shore crew will be waiting at the dock with tools and equipment at the ready. "For us, the stop in Cape Town will obviously be quite hectic. djuice will obviously need to be hauled out very soon after our arrival. Then get the full service and maintenance treat, pack her up for next leg, get some days of rest and off we go!"
The ETA is simply calculated with the time versus distance equation, although the result for a given distance can be quite different since only two species of ETA predictors have been discovered so far: the defiant optimists basing their calculations on the most unlikely optimum scenario of catching every favourable windshift and tide gate at the best moment; and the discouraging pessimists who are convinced that nature will try everything from hurricanes to earthquakes to prevent them from finishing.
One thing both species have in common: in hindsight they know precisely who messed up their correct calculation as the eventual arrival date rarely matches the ETA. This also explains the change in the working title from navigator to naviguesser.
At the moment we face a variety of ETAs for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet. As the leaders are blasting along with knot speeds in the teens towards Cape Town, they have justified hopes of being there by 25 October, whereas the trailing group have to sheet on hard or their chances of seeing Prince Alfred Waterfront in October will be history.
Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 29, 10.00hrs GMT
PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL ROC ETA PO
1 AONE 34 31.60S 003 17.24W 1078 101 14.7 348 0 00.0 25 OCT 01 8
2 ILBK 33 51.36S 003 43.24W 1103 104 13.8 369 25 -01.0 25 OCT 01 7
3 NEWS 34 05.04S 008 36.32W 1343 106 13.1 244 265 -01.6 26 OCT 01 6
4 TYCO 30 45.24S 009 50.44W 1443 118 09.3 238 365 -05.4 27 OCT 01 5
5 AART 29 13.92S 011 08.52W 1534 106 08.7 221 456 -05.9 27 OCT 01 4
6 TSEB 25 49.16S 016 48.80W 1888 108 09.5 218 810 -04.9 28 OCT 01 3
7 DJCE 25 44.16S 016 49.12W 1891 107 09.5 219 813 -05.2 28 OCT 01 2
8 ATOO 25 38.16S 017 29.00W 1926 100 09.4 222 848 -05.4 28 OCT 01 1
PS - Position; DTF - Distance to Finish; CMG - Course made good; SMG - Speed made good; TFHR - 24 hours run; DTL - Distance to leader; ROC - Rate of Closure; ETA - Estimated time of arrival; PO - Points
ILBK illbruck Challenge
AONE Amer Sports One
ATOO Amer Sports Two
AART ASSA ABLOY Racing Team
NEWS News Corporation
TYCO Team Tyco
TSEB Team SEB
DJCE djuice dragons