Searching for the Gulf Stream!
I have mentioned in previous blogs a large amount of planning which takes place before crossing an ocean, and this transatlantic is no exception. One of my responsibilities as Skipper and principal navigator on board is to produce a detailed passage plan which takes into account, amongst many other things, weather patterns and currents which may be used to advantage or avoided at all costs. The big one in the North Atlantic, of course, is the Gulf Stream - the relatively narrow but steady stream of warm water which flows out of the Gulf of Mexico in the direction of Scotland and Norway. This river in the ocean can be used to boost speeds, and therefore passage times considerably, when travelling towards Europe. With light winds predicted at the beginning of our race, Angela and I decided that the extra distance sailed to get into the current could pay off.
We were in good company, too, with Punta del Este, Qingdao and Imagine your Korea all going for the same strategy. The cunning plan was reliant on two things, however; first of all the boats staying closer to the rhumb line, further north, would be significantly delayed by the light winds and, secondly, that we could find the Gulf Stream as quickly as possible, set course parallel to said stream and then, crucially, stay in it! Neither of these things happened, unfortunately. Having found the stream initially, it then defied us by moving away from its predicted path (this is normal; it does this all the time) and we were then sailing blind, trying to find it again to get that extra boost, whilst travelling slowly in light winds. We think it may have moved south, as Punta del Este seemed to keep moving fast but, watching the boats further north freed off by the wind and now sailing away from us rapidly, we had to make the decision to abandon our plan, sail north into more wind and start playing catch up with the rest of the fleet. Damage control time! This race, however, is not yet run, and we are currently surfing at twenty knots in ideal sailing conditions, catching up slowly, just a little bit wiser and, above all else, a happy crew!
All is well on Dare To Lead...
Nigel, Angela and crew.