Team Blog – Ian Walker – 14th June 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012 | by ADOR

Last night saw us hit our fastest speeds of the race so far. Lying in 5th position we decided we had little to lose by pushing as hard as we could. With boatspeeds surging to over 40 knots and averages in the low to mid twenties we thought we might make some gains on somebody ahead.

Sadly this fleet is so strong that the best we could offer still saw us losing a little to the leaders. It appears that nobody has had any breakdowns enough to slow them down and everybody is pushing just as hard as us! Despite all the crashing and banging we seem in reasonable shape as far as we can tell. We have just slowed down a tough for 20 minutes to change out a steering cable that was showing signs of wear. A broken cable would not be much fun at these high speeds. If everyone stays in one piece it looks like the race will be decided tonight by whoever gybes in the best position – getting the gybe in 40+ knots is not going to be easy either. Life onboard isn’t much fun right now. Eating and sleeping are both hard but we can console ourselves with the thought that all being well we should be in L’Orient tomorrow.

date: Thursday, 14 June 2012 15:16:56 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 13th June 2012

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 | by ADOR

Whilst it is nice to have all the boats in sight I can’t say I have enjoyed watching Camper sail up and around us. It’s not the first time in this race we have seen their potency upwind. Everyone is jockeying for position as we sail into the corner of the high pressure. The wind has been as light as 5 knots but right now it has filled back in again to 9 knots and we are all moving well. Everyone is only too aware of how important it is to stay in touch with the leaders as the rich will certainly get richer when we head north on port tack after San Miguel.

Our plan was to stay just north of everyone but we haven’t been able to hold our height and we now find ourselves pretty much the southernmost boat. Maybe we will have to switch strategies and drive off for the shift instead whilst hoping we keep enough windspeed. Whilst too little wind is a worry right now, it will not be long before we may be hoping for less wind. All the weather models show a pretty intense low pressure for us to sail through on the way back to L’Orient so it is looking like a fast ride to the finish.

Whilst all the gear is as far forward in Azzam as we can get it right now, this time tomorrow I suspect we will have everything strapped on as far back as we can.

date: Wednesday, 13 June 2012 09:15:23 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 12th June 2012

Tuesday, 12 June 2012 | by ADOR

As predicted, Groupama and Telefonica are giving a masterclass in reaching speed as the fleet slowly curves up in the lifting breeze towards the Azores. There is simply nothing the rest of us can do to match them until the wind changes or some tactical opportunities open up. The good news for us is that after 24 hours we can still see them (just) and we have hung on quite well to Puma.

As we have seen before we are also slightly quicker than Camper at tight jib reaching angles so we are currently ahead of them by a few miles. I think this leg is going to be in three distinct phases. First we have about 650 miles of power reaching of which we have already covered 400 miles. Next we will have a light air upwind section as we skirt the Azores high pressure and tack to round San Miguel. This will be about 200 miles and will take up most of tomorrow and tomorrow night.

Finally we will have 1150 miles of windy downwind sailing to the finish on Friday. The big questions on my mind are how much of a shake-up (if any) the light wind section could bring tomorrow and in particular will we be able to fend off Camper through this upwind stage, but perhaps more importantly how windy will the last few days get and what opportunities could that present? Which teams will try to sail the fastest route that negotiates gale force winds in the North and which ones will opt for a more conservative approach further south? Will the leg be won in stage 1, 2 or 3 above? Either way our task remains the same which is to sail as fast as possible for now and see what opportunities open up.

date: Tuesday, 12 June 2012 15:20:56 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana– 11th June 2012

Monday, 11 June 2012 | by ADOR

I find it funny that by now in the race it feels more normal to be offshore than it does to be on land. Although Lisbon was an incredible stopover and reminded us fondly of our training days in Portugal before the race, we’re happy to be back at it. “It just feels natural at this point, we just seem to pick up where we left off” explains Wade Morgan.

The last sched had us losing slight ground on the Juan K boats that seem to really thrive in these conditions. However, we are still holding our ground, and remain on the virtual podium in third place. Camper is climbing up in course at the moment, allowing us to gain a fraction of a mile on them. Sanya continues to hold bearing with us for now, but seem to be sailing a bit lower to pick up speed.

The leg at this point it is still looking quite quick barring no issues with the Azores high-pressure system. “Our goal is to just stay up with the leaders until we get to San Miguel – once we bare off and begin sailing wide fast angles our chances improve” explains Justin Slattery. It will not become easy at that point however, there will be only 1100 miles of runway and any deficit will be difficult to gain back before the finish.

Should be a wicked week of racing in the North Atlantic…

date: Monday, 11 June 2012 15:26:07 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 31st May 2012

Thursday, 31 May 2012 | by ADOR

After a tense night in light winds we seem to be poking our way through the high pressure ridge into better wind but I am not taking anything for granted yet. These features can have a habit of swallowing you back up. It is not really any clearer which of the boats will emerge in the strongest position. We may currently be closest to Lisbon but the boats to the south will have a better angle of wind all the way in.

Everything has been calm onboard and much less intense than expected. The ridge heralded a dying breeze and very gradual windshift to the left. We never actually stopped in no wind but came close on two occasions. We tacked three times and that was that. It appears that we now have to contend with a fairly light wind run to Lisbon including what could be a very tricky finish at night in the River Tejo. This could test everybody’s nerves – especially at night and against the current – hopefully our local knowledge there will come in handy.

Everyone onboard Azzam is fully focused on trimming, steering and stacking as well as we can. Each 3 hourly position report is eagerly awaited with both anticipation and fear! It is certainly nice to be in contention in the last few hundred miles of a leg and no more than this team deserves.

date: Thursday, 31 May 2012 12:45:14 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana– 30th May 2012

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 | by ADOR

The barometer is climbing fast and steadily as we sail out of the frontal line that has given us speed for the past three days. From here, the breeze will moderate along with the sea state and we will begin to feel the effects of the high-pressure ridge in about 200 miles time. Forecasts are showing that the ridge could produce at least 12+ hours off near drifting conditions until we are able to pop through the other side into the northerlies. I imagine this will be a mind-bending experience as we either watch our lead extend or slip away.

In the last hour the breeze has dropped and headed slightly. During the watch change we peeled from the G1 to the fractional zero and are now sailing a slightly lower and faster course. The latest scheds are still showing that the boats furthest back are making the bigger gains on us, which really only proves how fast we are sailing out of this front. Fortunately, we have managed to keep the angry kitty (Puma) at bay and still hold a small buffer zone of 30+ miles.

The fire in team morale still burns strong. Jules and Ian have been non-stop with performance analysis and weather updates. Since we are being chased by what feels like a pack of dogs (and one cat), the general theme has been to sail the fastest angle possible. So the boys have been really pushing Azzam for the 36 hours. Hopefully it will have been enough to give us an advantage when we hit the ridge off Portugal.

date: Wednesday, 30 May 2012 14:48:49 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 29th May 2012

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 | by ADOR

As predicted our lead is rapidly vanishing before our eyes. The fact that we knew this would happen means we are all calm about it and remain fully focused on what lies ahead. It is business as usual onboard and we have learnt not to let large losses at every position report affect our mood. There is quite simply nothing we can do about it if the boats behind bring 3 or more knots more wind up into the back of you. Sooner or later they will get close enough to be in more similar wind and then we have to hope we can compete. By then I suspect the wind will be very light and it could be anyone’s game.

One good thing is the sailing conditions are very easy indeed. Fast angles, smooth seas and not too many sail changes. We are approaching 1000 miles to go and our plan is to rest people up while the going is easy so that we have fully charged batteries for what will certainly be a frantic last 36 hours. If that means everyone on deck then so be it – there will be time to rest in Lisbon. If anybody in Miami had offered us a 1 mile lead with 1000 miles to go we would have gladly taken it. We may have lost 60 miles in 24 hours to the chasing pack today but we remain closest to Lisbon and we hope to be for some time yet.

date: Tuesday, 29 May 2012 11:59:47 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 28th May 2012

Monday, 28 May 2012 | by ADOR

As the fleet charges east at ever increasing speeds towards Lisbon we know that it is highly likely that we may have to give up a lot of our 90 mile lead to the chasing pack. I am not being defeatist, just preparing myself mentally for the fact that those behind will have more wind than us due to the advancing cold front picking everyone up from behind. More windspeed equals more boatspeed at these wind angles so the guys behind will certainly gain.

The big question is at what rate will they gain and do we have enough of a lead to hang on for two days until we enter the light air band 300 miles from Lisbon. All we can do is sail as fast as possible and hope that the wind field evens up as the boats get closer together. We need to try and minimize our losses as best we can and position ourselves well for the final section of the race. One thing for certain is that there is going to be a very tight finish from first to last place in Lisbon. The weather gods have scripted that.

So far we have sailed a very good leg and everyone onboard is fiercely determined to defend our lead for as long we possibly can.

date: Monday, 28 May 2012 15:29:09 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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