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8 October 2001, 12:37 pm
Warm Rinse Cycle in The Washing Machine
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Volvo Ocean Race

Email from Jamie Gale on board illbruck, current Volvo Ocean Race leaders.

If I come back in my next life as a pair of jeans I know what it will feel like to be put through a warm rinse cycle in the washing machine.

We didn't need the navigators to tell us this morning that we had finally reached the doldrums: they announced themselves with a decent downpour and squall which set of a frenzy of peeling from one sail to another, which has continued all day.

It is amazing how before you have tidied up from one peel the breeze has totally changed and you have to start running sheets for the next change. On deck the boys have been running our silk weight shirts and Gore-Tex shorts.

It is too hot for wet weather gear and it is just easier to be drenched all watch. The good news is that it seems as though the doldrums will not hold us up too much, and so far our lead has been more or less stable, although I have the feeling that all that could change in one dark cloud. Fingers crossed the navigators have it right.

The most interesting thing about sailing in these conditions is that you find all sorts of new ways to trim your sails through the squalls. The squalls are generally short enough that often there is not really time to change from the spinnaker, down to the jib or reacher, and then back to the spinnaker once the breeze has moved on. So the temptation is to leave the kite up and run deep when the breeze hits you.

So as each new cloud approaches, all eyes are cast to windward trying to estimate exactly how much the breeze will build and how much it will shift.

Typically the breeze between the clouds has been about 13-14 knots, but that can build to as much as 30-35 knots in as long as it takes to yell "get it off". If you guess right then you make a big gain, but if you get it wrong then suddenly you are sailing at right angles to course at 20-something knots.

Either way, it sure beats all the drifting we did last week.

Jamie Gale/News Editor
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