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7 April 2005, 12:08 pm
Short Tacking Along The Coast Of Iran
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Oryx Quest 2005

Doha 2006 is approaching the Strait of Hormuz, the final turning mark of a long and varied course around the world. At the 0700 hours GMT poll on Thursday morning the boat was 82 miles from the hairpin bend of the Strait sailing at 10 knots. Once they are around the corner they have a short 275 mile sprint to the finish.
Despite their proximity to Doha Brian THOMPSON (GBR) is not giving a firm ETA. The weather is just too fickle to attempt to nail down an exact time but it is likely to be Friday afternoon, Qatar time. Or maybe Saturday morning. It all depends on the wind gods.

For now they have wind. That is the good news. The bad news is that once again it is coming from the same direction they are trying to head, blowing directly down the Strait, funneling between Oman and Iran. THOMPSON and his crew are short tacking along the coast of Iran lining up for the final leg to the corner when they will be able to ease sheets and storm in to the finish in Qatar.

This is day 60 of their around-the-world odyssey and the crew are looking forward to finally touching dry land. The upwind sailing is no fun as Paul LARSEN (AUS) describes in his daily log. 'During our last watch the wind swung onto the nose and increased to 17 knots,' he wrote. 'Within minutes, even in a still very flat seastate, Doha 2006 began 'chopping wood'. These boats are not designed with comfort upwind as even a distant option. The underwater shape of these cats is very distinctive with most of the 'rocker' (longitudinal curvature) being aft. This means that there is a long flat run from about the middle to the bow and when the boat begins pitching this slaps the water all at once. It's not gentle, pretty or fast. All the romantic notions of savouring the last couple of days flew straight out the window. Once again we slowed down to barely double figures in order to preserve the boat whilst we gradually got headed off course by the breeze. Ho-hum. With every slam we are reminded once more that we are not home yet.'

To the south of Doha 2006 Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his crew on Daedalus are still making excellent progress as they approach the equator. They are midway between the Seychelles and the Chagos archipleago sailing at 14 knots. The storm that dogged them for almost a week is already a distant memory and with the conditions on board more moderate, BULLIMORE found the time to write and email describing what the sailing was like as they approached the Mauritius turning mark. 'We have now passed the Tropical Storm Isang,' he wrote. 'There were moments when l believed the narrow passageway we had to sail down, between Mauritius and the centre of the storm, was closing. It was worrying. Lee BRUCE, our shore based weather router and on board navigator Nick LEGGATT [RSA] did a great job. We all treated the last few days sailing very, very seriously. One wrong move could have put us at least four or five days behind our present position.'

Sailing a maxi-catamaran at full speed is one of the pure pleasures in life. The speed and intensity focuses your mind so that everything else around you blurs into the background. BULLIMORE described the sensation in the second part of his log. 'You stand on the helm, everything around you is pitch black apart from the red light of the steering compass. You're doing around 25 knots, instinctively feeling how the boat is working with the mountainous seas. One minute the boat feels like an out of control roller coaster and the next you know you have her under control, surfing down the long ski like slopes of yet another wave. At surfing speeds of 30 knots plus, one's mind has got to be totally focused on what you are doing, no wandering off into another world.'

At the 0700 poll on Thursday Daedalus was sailing at 16.6 knots having covered just under 400 miles in the last 24 hours. They should cross the equator later this evening and finally be back in the Northern Hemisphere. With any luck by this time tomorrow THOMPSON and his team on Doha 2006 will be seeing the dunes of Doha and the finish of the Oryx Quest 2005.

Brian Hancock. Image, Doha 2006:© Quest International Sports
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