Imagine the most ideal day of sailing while on holiday, light winds, a bit of a swell creating light undulations to remind you that you are on a 70 foot yacht, not a cruise ship, light winds to keep you cool while on deck; sounds perfect doesn’t it? The juxtaposition is that while on deck all seems perfect for what our fearless skipper dreads will lead us into sun sail mode, the frustration of being in the Doldrums – little or no wind making our windseeker work overtime as we try to chase squalls to and drum up some wind to fill our sails, hot and almost unbearably humid below decks making it impossible to completely rest or sleep in more than 1 or 2 hour snatches while off watch seems to peel more layers off the personalities that comprise team Invest Africa. Impatience seems to have reared its ugly little head convincing me that we are far more competitive as a team than we initially suspected… not a bad trait for what was a group of virtually complete strangers to discover they have in common in a race, which leads me to believe that all the pent up energy and frustration will be constructively channelled in the sprint to Rio, can't wait!
With the uncharacteristically long stint in the ITCZ which we will no doubt wear as some yuppie version of an old sea dog badge of honour once we are safely enjoying a Caipirinha at Copacabana beach or fondly retelling the trials and tribulations of Leg 1 to Clipper Race applicants, the main topic of discussion has unsurprisingly turned to Rio...how soon can we expect to break free of the Doldrums (it’s anyone’s guess at this point in time)? When will we get to Rio? Will we have enough time to do our victualling and boat maintenance and still fit Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer into our in port schedule? How will the team dynamic shift as we say goodbye to the Leg 1 crew members and welcome the Leg 2 crew members?
I wonder who named the 'Doldrums' – my son emailed me today and said 'makes sense they are in the middle...', which I now realise it does. This is a mid-passage for all of us – a period of time characterised by time that hardly seems to move. Small details become hugely exaggerated – scanning the foil surface of the pewter sea looking for a line of wind, riffling its way to us. I fantasise in detail about what type of showers I will have in the future: curious what will remain of this experience – since I can hardly recall what happened yesterday.
The heat saps my energy – the stillness, the sense of not-going-anywhere, the monotony of our shared preoccupations – all of these sap energy and wear patience thin. I realise that this is the most intense experience I can recall of shared frustration, which we are all expressing in our behaviours, but find it hard to talk about – as if something needs to be held together. When I greet fellow crew members on deck at watch handover – I find myself saying 'I'm hanging in there' – as if I were a sail without enough wind, as if in being becalmed, I am become agitated.
The Doldrums create a kind of emotional weather – a blend of high and low pressure. When we find wind, I feel that I can take credit; when we lose wind – or fruitlessly search for it all night – I feel to blame. I can sense the same in my crew members – we don't talk about this weather, but it governs our behaviour.
A pod of pilot whales went past again this morning at around 0630 UTC just as has happened each morning – as if they were commuting. We imagined them being bemused by us humans still hanging around.
I’ve got to go...another drop in apparent wind speed, another spinnaker to wool and windseeker to put up...and before I even finish this sentence another new experience, raising a half wooled spinnaker through the sail locker hatch.
Andy Harrison and Sylvia Chahonyo