Team Blog – Nick Dana – 26th December 2011

Monday, 26 December 2011 | by ADOR

We are nearly there now. Less then 24 hours left of the first part of the journey to Abu Dhabi. I’m writing this update a little late today due the small equator ceremony we had aboard Azzam. Three of us met King Neptune on deck this morning shortly after crossing the significant latitude in every sailor’s life.

Myself, Wade ‘Bubs’ Morgan, and Adil Khalid were all greeted by ‘Neptune’ and his ‘Queeny’ shortly after sunrise. They came bearing many gifts and other tools necessary for the initiation. The ceremony was then carried out in keeping with the tradition and then it was back to sailing. And if you’re wondering – yes, we have the haircuts to prove it.

In other news on board, we are currently rolling comfortable along the chain of islands that lead us to safe haven port A. Although everyone seems happy to see land again, there is still a bit of disappointment in the air. It was a tough leg for us once we split from from the fleet in the Southern Ocean section. Each team was sailing very well, and it seemed as if we were always just falling off the systems that were carrying the leaders ahead.

In the end we had one last go at the leaders, making up a massive amount a miles in a matter of 24 hours coming into the Doldrums. But again, the fleet was sailing very consistent and each managed to protect their lead on us. Now we are looking forward to part B of the journey, and getting home to Abu Dhabi.

date: Monday, 26 December 2011 12:08:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [3]

Team Blog – Nick Dana – 25th December 2011

Sunday, 25 December 2011 | by ADOR

It’s been a strange 24 hours for us here aboard Azzam. On Christmas Eve, we had no wind – ‘dead in the water drifter all day’. We were eating like crazy, looking at our possible ETA’s wondering how many food bags for later days we could get away with eating. It was scorching as well, 35+ deg inside a black carbon boat with no air circulation. Each of us was getting to our wits end with this leg, and the classic Doldrums weather was only amplifying the angst on board. Luckily everyone caught up on sleep and food, because as soon as the clock struck over to the 25th, it was breeze on!

We woke up to a giant gust, 20+knots and a 30 deg. wind shift. The crew hurried on deck to wrestle the MHO (Mast head zero) to the deck after the furl. Everything came down smooth, the stack was tidy and the boys were ready for the next move. The breeze started to freshen again, a bit more consistently now – we could see in the clouds that we were entering a squall line but did not know how long it would hang around for. The G2 was raised and off we went into the white and dark grey cloud line.

Huge raindrops started smacking us in the face, it was classic squall conditions. None of it was new to anyone, but the system wasn’t giving us a real sign as to what it had in store for us. Daylight was just breaking when Ian pointed out the breaking waves in the distance – there’s our sign. This weather had been pumping for a while now to create these waves, and we were likely to be into for at least a few hours.

As the morning got on, so did the breeze. At one point we were seeing a steady 35+ knots of true wind speed. Nothing too crazy, but with the sea state it made for tough driving conditions and also had us stumped as to what sail to go with. Wanting to preserve the life of the GS and not run it ragged in a squall we opted for the J4 and two reefs, however, this was a bit overpowered for the time being. On deployment of the J4, the speed went - in a matter of seconds - from 25 knots to 35 knots, blinding everyone on deck. Ian quickly shouted “yep! that’s a too much, furl her back up”. A smart move considering how far off course we were headed to just to carry the speed that came with the sail area of the J4 in that breeze.

After bear-heading for a while on course we deployed the SJ (storm jib) and hiked the speed back up to the high 20s and remained on course. About three hours and four peels later, we are comfortable plotting along with a full main and the FRO (fractional zero). The breeze has been settling down by the hour now, and should hopefully lift us the afternoon. A pretty exciting Christmas so far – all the chocolates and candy were already smashed in the fever this morning!!

date: Sunday, 25 December 2011 12:14:08 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog - Nick Dana - 24th December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011 | by ADOR

So far my doldrums experience has been quite different than what I had originally expected. In two separate schedule reports last night we were averaging over 16 knts of boat speed. We entered the Doldrums doing roughly 18 knts with the bow exploding into each wave ahead of us as if we were in the Southern Ocean still. Azzam was reeling in her competitors by several miles a schedule, the easting route was paying off for us.

But it was to be short lived – in hindsight we should have sacrificed some speed on our approach and gone tighter to the breeze. Though we would have lost the big number gains in the beginning, our setup for a speedy Doldrums crossing would have been more realistic. As Jules puts it though “you can never see what you have missed in the Doldrums until it’s too late.” At the moment, I’m sure the rest of the fleet would agree with this statement.

As we drift through what seems to be a 10x10 mile cloudless hole, it’s impossible not to think about how close you are to the finish. “Just under two ‘Great Races’ left here boys!” announces Bubs as he comes on deck for the start of his watch. I suppose it’s easier to cope with frustrating drifting conditions if you are able to quantify the length left of the misery. I laughed as I looked around and saw everyone number crunching in their minds, relating similar race’s in the past to our distance to the finish. Whatever gets you by…

Some - on the other hand - just aren’t geared to think that way; they live hour-by-hour on the boat, watch-to-watch. When there is down time, it’s either sleep or fix something. No room for your mind to wander because it only stretches time. It’s a very difficult mindset to tap into, but I reckon it’s the way forward when you’re staring up at rig that full of dead slatting sails.

date: Saturday, 24 December 2011 13:00:41 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [9]

Team Blog – Ian Walker – 24th December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011 | by ADOR

I think someone on this boat must have been a very bad person. For the second time this leg we find ourselves becalmed and having to sit and watch as the fleet sail away.

It is particularly galling today as we closed to within five miles of Puma this morning only to again sit in a cloud with no wind for hours on end as they moved away. For sure all the teams must go through these times but we seem to have had more than our fair share on this leg. It is particularly hard on the mind to feel you are back in the race only to then have it taken away. Having finally escaped the clutches of the doldrums into westerly winds this morning we have again been swallowed up as the Doldrums have edged north over the top of us.

We have had about three knots of breeze all day and are barely able to creep north towards stronger wind and salvation from the searing heat and no wind. As always we will not give up hope but our current predicament will be tough to turn around.

Still, we have freeze dried Christmas Dinner to look forward to tomorrow although most attention is now focused on our Equator crossing and the appearance of King Neptune. I suspect at this rate he may be a very angry man when he appears and Wade, Adil and Nick should be worried men.

date: Saturday, 24 December 2011 12:17:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [6]

Team Blog - Nick Dana - 23rd December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011 | by ADOR

The Rubber Band

As the fleet enters the Doldrums and begins to slow, we on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s, Azzam, look for opportunity. Generally the Doldrums are seen as a hindrance in yacht racing, a windless band of space stretching across the equator in a nearly unpredictable manner. However, when you’re behind they’re often seen as your last chance to make up some distance between yourself and the leaders.

In our last sched we managed to put a relatively large amount of miles on the rest of the fleet due to the compression of the Doldrums. While it is easy to become excited, you must remind yourself the Doldrums can also work like a rubber band. Eventually we too will slow, and the fleet will escape and be on their ‘merry’ way in the more stable winds to the north.

One other option that our navigator Jules has just been explaining to me, is to try and tap into a ‘tropical wave’ that may be in the area or beginning to form near by. These ‘waves’ are created by the opposing wind directions of the South Easterly trades to the South of the Doldrums, and the Westerly monsoon winds to the north of the Doldrums. When colliding they can form sub-tropical low’s that can often propel you through the Doldrums without having a park up. We’re still on the hunt, but there are signs of something like this developing just to the east of our position now.

For the moment we will continue to push forward, are largest gain was made on Puma in the last sched so we will try and move a bit East of their position in effort to avoid the same cloud that may have trapped them. Camper still seems to be going well, with one sched even reporting that they were in 18 knots of breeze. It’s a tough call no doubt, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The mood is tense on board to say the least. Our only ‘jolly’ moment of the morning was when rain cloud passed over and took ‘the funk’ from us. Now at least down below doesn’t smell like a science project gone horrible wrong.

date: Friday, 23 December 2011 20:58:47 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [7]

Team Blog – Ian Walker – 22nd December 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011 | by ADOR

Not too much to report out here right now as we plough on North East at about 18 knots. I have just got off the wheel and it is great fun on deck – 17 knots of trade wind, nice waves to catch, 29 degrees water temperature and clear skies.

It is not such good fun down below. The whole boat smells of wet dog inside. Our one can of air freshener is on its last legs so we are looking forward to the doldrums when the wind will drop and we can get some air through the boat.

Three things are on the crew’s minds right now. First and foremost we are desperate for the leaders to slow up so we can close into the back of them – may the doldrums be wide and slow! Secondly it is three days to Christmas and it is sad to think of missing a precious Christmas with our kids – you only get so many with your kids and we will have one fewer now. Thirdly the Equator is less than 1000 miles away and King Neptune’s presence will soon be required to allow Adil, Wade and Nick to pass. I hope for their sakes we gain some miles by then or he could be very angry!

date: Thursday, 22 December 2011 12:20:27 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [3]

Team Blog - Ian Walker - 20th December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 | by ADOR

Not much to report onboard Azzam today except it is bumpy, wet and generally pretty miserable on deck – at least it isn’t cold.

Life down below is also not easy with simple tasks like eating, going to the toilet or bailing water out becoming major exercises. Everyone on deck is harnessed on and down below you need to be very careful not to get thrown off balance and injured.

We have started to make some small gains on those ahead which is both nice to see and good for morale – long may they continue! Yesterday we were shocked to hear Sanya’s news and so pleased they did not break their mast – those guys deserved better after sailing a really nice leg. Good luck Team Sanya and get back in the race soon!

date: Tuesday, 20 December 2011 16:44:44 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog - Nick Dana - 19th December 2011

Monday, 19 December 2011 | by ADOR

Finally we are pointing north. We have been knocking on the exit door of this front for the past few days, and have now managed to squeeze through. Amazing that we have been at sea now for just over a week and we are not far above the latitude from which we started on in Cape Town. However from what I gather, the trades in the Indian Ocean are quite illusive this time of year, and are often offset by cyclones.

Though we have seen no sign of this current cyclone yet, we should be entering the first wind fields during the early hours of the morning. Looks as if the northerly’s will keep us busy for the next two days pounding up wind, before the trades pick us up and we can crack sheets again. “Honestly it doesn’t matter what direction the wind comes from at this point – just as long as there is wind,” Jutty (Justin Slattery) announced on deck this morning. Everyone chuckled and agreed; the past few days had become quite difficult to stay motivated.

Especially when the fleet was starting to spread more and more, and other teams were doubling are own schedules in completely different weather systems. Nevertheless we pushed through, discovered some new culinary delights, got some rest, and are ready for the upwind trek.

Bubs repair on the dagger board up/down shiv seems to have done the trick. Although we did have him convinced for a little bit that his resin mix ratio was off and the carbon laminate was still soft hours after it should have gone off. The rest of Azzam is holding together nicely (knock on wood). Yesterday’s sunny flat spell of wind allowed everyone to get there kit on deck and have a bit of a dry out.

Judging by the look of a few of our shirts and pants, we are on par to discover new life forms in them within a week’s time. So we better hit a rain cloud soon. Heaps of albatross spotting yesterday as well! Royal Albatross to be exact.

date: Monday, 19 December 2011 12:50:57 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [7]

Team Blog - Nick Dana - 18th December 2011

Sunday, 18 December 2011 | by ADOR

The Feast in the East

It was over a spicy green Thai chicken curry last night for dinner that our current navigational options were discussed amongst the crew. The option to stick it out to the east for longer in order get around the low pressure had been the dominant choice of days prior. However our faint 30 second glimpse of Sanya yesterday disappearing to the north, gliding down wind with her massive A3 up, proved to liven up the debate.

Each weather model was then brought out, and both options argued fairly. As Jules explained to me relative to Sanya’s choice to go north – “it’s quite a risky maneuver, but if it comes off right they’ll probably end up two or three hundred miles ahead. The problem for them might come if it forms slightly closer to the coast as all they will get is the strongest head winds in the most dangerous part of the tropical storm.”

The other side of the proverbial coin is the decision to break from the fleet. Which I gather from the veterans on board, is always a risky move in the Volvo. Right now we are comfortable up with the pack, a few slower schedules of recent but generally moving in the same frontal systems as the leaders. Ian further demonstrated the reasoning to stick with the pack, “you can either come first or last [relative to Sanya’s northern route], but at least this way [to the east with the fleet] we are still in a sailing race and are still racing for second.” Nevertheless it will be an interesting week for all the fleet.

In other news on board Azzam, Bubs has got the tools out and is having a crack at fixing a shiv in the port dagger board case. It’s a fairly major job considering the location of the break and the ability to access it. But Bubs is a clever builder and will likely ‘jimmy’ something together. And if he doesn’t, maybe the ten other guys that come around telling him “ohh I wouldn’t have done it like that” will have a better idea. Or face his wrath!

date: Sunday, 18 December 2011 15:24:02 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is not responsible for third party comments on the website.