The five day race West of the Philippines has been very different than the previous two. It is less than a 1,000nm and it brings us close, sometimes really close to the other competing yachts. During the day you see the white sails and at night the lights. And then there is the rare occasion that the skippers see each and have a friendly conversation.
As we are racing, our team likes to know how well we are doing. Are we sailing faster, making more progress or are ‘they’ doing better. And it is nice to have those answers before we get to the finish line, as only then we can still influence our speed and direction. Just looking at the other yachts tells us the sailplan. And within a range of about 10nm a small display shows the yachts that transmit their relevant data like speed and course over ground. This system is our friend to help us to compare ‘us’ and ‘them’. But how do you share 55 different numbers from a screen to a team?
Good old pen and paper is the answer. Just make a table with a ruler and compare speed, location, course, distance to finish and progress. And then the conclusion. Sometimes we are doing better, and sometimes ‘they’ are. While sailing close to each other the differences are minute, less than half a mile after 50nm stretch. But when we are sailing far apart from each other we encounter other wind conditions pushing us forward differently. Thanks to pen and paper we have learned that now.
The calm coral sea brings us to China. The winds and currents are pushing us forward. Besides us on the boat there is little sign of life around us. An occasional flying fish can be seen jumping out of the water, the radar displays a rare freighter ploughing ahead. But that’s about it.
Our watch started at 0600 with an overcast sky, in the distance light grey patches connecting the sky and the water... “Those are squalls,'' explained Wavy, and they surrounded us, left and right. The radar confirms and also quantifies what you can see, a body of rain and wind 9nm ahead of us, followed by two smaller ones. Sailing through them yesterday gave us a bit more wind temporarily, a warm shower followed by a wind lull. The rain provided the fresh water for a cleansing shower.
So what are we going to do today? Sail through them again? Nope, we are going to avoid them today and keep those on our starboard. Hobbing away, ‘head out of boat’, and zig-zagging between the squalls. More wind and avoiding the lull areas. And guess what, hobbing works. Despite our longer path we get quicker to our destination. And the occasional shower cleans the deck, cools down the boat and brings out the British humour. ‘I did not want to say it, but you really needed it’. Laughs all around. Pleasure is never far away and ready to spice up our lives. Another sign of life perhaps?