Another night of squalls for Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in Route du Rhum

19 November 2014

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has had another night of squalls in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe race.

The Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, 75, had a lot of sail up to try and stop Andrea Mura - in third place - getting too far away on his yacht, Vento di Sardegna.

Sir Robin - in fourth position - is 58 miles behind Italian skipper Mura, holder of the Rhum class record which he set in 2010.

Sir Robin, on his Open 60 Grey Power, is making 10.6 knots in around 19 knots of Easterly wind, but is still having bursts of 20 knot speeds at times.

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell said at times today the wind will be going up to 25 knots and gusting a bit in the squall lines as they come over. The wind will probably oscillate a point each way during the day.

It's all about timing today as Sir Robin talks about the timing of a tactical gybe, trying not to let Andrea Mura get too far ahead and the boat's time zone in his blog sent Wednesday morning.

Another cockpit night with squalls coming through. There was one wipeout, right over on our side until I managed to get across the cockpit and let the mainsheet go and get the Autopilot back on. We had too much canvas up for anything but a very small angle right downwind just trying to stop Mura getting too far away.

A wipeout occurs when the rudders cannot hold the boat from coming up into the wind. It is usually caused by a squall increasing the wind or a slight veer in the case of approaching the Windies. The result is upsetting the sail balance and the boat accelerates, refuses to bear away, and flies up into the wind with all sails luffed (flapping). In effect there is too much sail up for anything but going downwind.

If asleep, you sense immediately the problem, but you are probably too late to correct it. The boat goes over on her side, up to 45 degrees, and just lies there, everything thundering. The only cure is to get on deck as fast as possible and ease the sheets, mainsail first, so it is not applying any push into the wind. At this stage the autopilot will usually switch to Standby because it is not achieving the result it wants. Put it back on Auto and hope the boat responds.

Sometimes the reacher has to be eased as well. And there you hang until the boat obeys the rudders and you get her going off downwind and sort out the mess - again!

The answer is there is too much sail up, but this is a race.

I took in the first reef to make the boat more manageable, but we are still getting bursts of over 20 knots speed on occasions.

It became under 1000 miles to go to the finish just after 1500 UK time yesterday.

That is a straight line though, and we shall have to put in a gybe. It’s the timing of that gybe which will matter from a tactical perspective.

The official time on the boat is now three hours behind the UK. This is because I am more than 45 degrees west longitude, so the sun rises three hours after the UK. Just as it rises about 20 minutes later than London in Cornwall.

I doubt the cake will last to the finish. It’s a quarter disappeared already!


Current ETA into Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe is 25 November.

You can track Sir Robin and Grey Power here on the official race tracker. It updates every hour.

The Clipper Race posts his blogs here.

For the latest updates, see the @ClipperRace twitter feed. You can also follow Sir Robin on Twitter here.

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