After a bad day bobbing around in the leftover slop from a passing front, Tony Bullimore and his crew on Daedalus have finally picked up some fresh breeze and are back up to speed riding the edge of a weak low pressure system to their south. The wind is a perfect 15 knots, blowing from the northwest, and Daedalus is gulping up miles at a rate of about 20 an hour. It's as good as it's gets on the open blue and Tony and his crew are enjoying the ride.
"One gets a very special feeling when a good breeze starts to wrap itself around the boat,"
Tony wrote earlier today in an email to his friends and supporters. "The sails start to take shape as the boat accelerates; 5 knots, 10 knots, getting up to 15 and then to 20 knots in perfect sailing conditions."
While the boat and crew and reveling in the ideal conditions, they are also keeping a wary eye on the tropical depression to the northeast. The as yet unnamed system is gathering steam as it sucks up energy from the tropical waters and has started to track slowly toward the southeast; toward a rendezvous with Tony and his team. Tony discussed the approaching storm in his daily log.
"Lee BRUCE, our shore based weather router has sent us information on a building depression around 1,000 miles north of us,"
he wrote. "Lee tells us that the weather centres are keeping a very close eye on this one because it could slowly develop into a full blown hurricane that could produce extremely high winds and very rough seas. We immediately thought of Hurricane Percy that blocked our path in the Pacific and the hurricane that blocked Doha's path roughly where we are now. We have studied the information that has come in, and in two or three days time we will be fairly close to the centre. At the moment our course takes us around 200 miles from the centre."
As with Doha 2006
before them, the Mauritius turning mark may present an immovable obstacle. The island has to be left to port creating a fairly narrow gap between the mark of the course and the approaching cyclone. Tony's log continues; "The depression is going to pass around 350 miles west of Mauritius so we have a narrow gap between the possible hurricane and Mauritius to sail through. If the hurricane decides to travel a little southwest instead of south or southeast, the gap will close and we will have to drop off the wrong side of Mauritius to get out of the very big winds and massive seas that would develop, and wait for it to go through. We would then have to fight our way back to Mauritius to go the right way round this mark. There is no way we want to be on top of what could be the wildest of hurricanes at this stage of the race, or anytime for that matter."
There is still a large gap between the boat and the system, but all eyes will be on both as the new week arrives. Meanwhile, an ocean away, Doha 2006
has run out of breeze. They are caught in the grips of a massive high pressure system that extends from India, west across the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Aden and as far north as Baghdad. High pressure weather is beach weather but without sand, buckets and spades and beach balls, it's not much fun on board the Qatari catamaran. They logged a pitiful days run of just 126 miles. To add insult to their slow progress, the 126 miles was not even on course. The Argos tracking system that is used to monitor the progress of the boat is calibrated to show different colours for different boat speeds. A red line means that the speed is below 5 knots and for the last 24 hours, much of Doha 2006's
course shows as thin red line wandering haphazardly up the Indian Ocean. With a course like that, predicting an ETA is better left for those with a crystal ball.