Team Blog – Nick Dana – 26th January 2012

Thursday, 26 January 2012 | by ADOR

It’s day four now and still we plug along in the same conditions we started in. I figure at this point in the trip, the onboard lifestyle description would probably even bore a couch surfer. So I have opted for race commentary today.

The breeze still hovers around the 8 -12 knots range from the NNE with minor headers (right shifts) here and there. After noticing a couple of good scheds out of Telefonica, and still under the impression that they were unable to fly a mast head zero (MH0), we thought we ought to give our fractional zero (FR0) a run. In an hours time it was taken back down as we pealed back to a G1. The FR0 just didn’t provide that flavourful, weight back -bow out, juice that we had initially hoped for. Nevertheless, it was a good exercise and further compounded our first test’s results that we had done in Portugal while training.

Through the early hours of this morning we still felt a bit sluggish, our scheds were falling off from the leaders and Telefonica (who we no longer believe is without a MH0) was launched. Team Sanya is now the only boat left in our sights, trailing just over ten miles back nipping at our heels. When speaking with a few of the crew about our just shy of average performance, they remain optimistic that the Malacca Straits will provide enough compression in the fleet to create a re-start. “It’s rare in this race, especially in this part of the world that the fleet will not be dramatically shifted one more time before the finish. One cloud can change the whole ball game for you” explains Junior (Andrew Lewis).

So as the boys enjoy the extra chilled out time in the rack, and the odd bowl of noodles as a boredom snack. Everyone is aware that there is still a race within a race ahead. The Straits will no doubt be a difficult feature of this leg; all we can hope for now is the cloud gods to be on our side and the Monsoon winds to be strong.

date: Thursday, 26 January 2012 10:36:57 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 24th January 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012 | by ADOR

It’s tough to know what to write today. It’s Groundhog Day really. We still haven’t tacked, we haven’t changed sail for over 24 hours and there has been little cloud activity to mess with the wind. In short nothing much is going on out here as we parade east towards our next waypoint at Pulau We.

Life onboard really consists of a few hours of driving or trimming on deck to extract the very best pace we can from Azzam followed by a few hours trying to catch whatever sleep we can in the sweltering conditions down below. I know it will be very hectic in the Malacca Straits so it is important to take the rest while we can. We haven’t had too bad a 24 hours, just about hanging on to the back of the leaders and slowly pulling away from Sanya behind.

It’s really a game of very subtle changes and trying to hang on for the action to start in the Straits. The only really good news is that I am definitely hearing less coughing aboard as we slowly shake off the various ailments picked up ashore.

date: Tuesday, 24 January 2012 17:59:19 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 24th January 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012 | by ADOR

Since I last wrote to you, Azzam and her finely tuned athletes have completed the following; 3 freeze dried meals, 6 packs of biltong, 16 Kit Kat chunky bars, 2 tins of nuts, 3 packs of wine gums, 4 sheets of chocolate, 1kg of meat and cheese + tortilla rolls, 4 ramen noodles packs, 1 pack of short bread and 75 liters of water. Oh yes, and one sail change.

Depending on your own dietary habits this might be considered savage, on par, or maybe even healthy? While it’s hard to fathom that this menu could ever fall under the realm of healthy, consider it from an energy standpoint. Energy lies in calories, and extremely calorific food items are both tasty and necessary onboard a Volvo Open 70. During the colder legs, a crewmember will burn anywhere between 6,000 and 8, 000 calories per-day. If you do the math between 11 guys, this menu that I have laid out for the past 24hrs falls far short.

However, we are not on a cold leg right now. Nor have there been many sail changes, stack shifts or even course changes for that matter. The pace, in which we are all consuming “energy” at the moment, is indeed purely driven by boredom. While the racing remains tight and focus levels are high, we find ourselves in a rare moment of the leg where physical stamina is not required nearly as much to get through the day. It’s also a chance to catch up on some of the weight you may have lost in the previous legs. Easy to say for the media guy!

In other news on board, we have run out of the fresh fruit that we had collected while in the Maldives. Wade cut up the last pineapple yesterday as everyone sat on the rail with cupped hands waiting for him to pass by and shovel a piece in their direction. It made a mess of the deck, but was worth the hassle. The savouring of the final bit of fruit also helped break up the argument about mealtime adjustments that has now plagued the boat for days. Again, driven by boredom. More to come…

date: Tuesday, 24 January 2012 17:55:38 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 23rd January 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012 | by ADOR

Whoaa!! We’re racing again! I’m not sure what we’re more excited about – the whole fleet being back on the line together, the two wins we had coming out of a spectacular stopover in Abu Dhabi. Or maybe the end of the shipping mission that has soaked up a significant amount of time and effort from everyone involved. However, for what was achieved, and the excellent conditions in which the five VOR 70s arrived in, hats off to the race organisers and sponsors for making it as painless as possible.

It was an action packed few weeks back in our homeport; each guy seems to have at least a story or two about the many varieties of craziness offered throughout the stopover. Whether it was the Ferrari World theme park, dune boarding in the desert, or even riding a camel down to the dock before the in-port race. I think it’s safe to say that we were all blown away by the success of the event in Abu Dhabi.

Now we just have to focus on keeping Azzam rumbling ahead towards China. Our last sched saw us gain .3 of a mile on Puma, and .2 of a mile on Sanya. The rest of the fleet we have had very slow losses to.

Ian Walker explains; “It’s quite frustrating at the moment, we were hoping to be a bit quicker than a few of these boats at this angle and wind speed. Even our current position relevant to the fleet doesn’t really allow us to do the subtle mode changes that one would usually benefit from in side-by-side racing.”

With roughly another 250 miles until the fleet reaches the Bay of Bengal, Jules and Ian remain confident that we can slowly take distance out of the leaders by sailing smart and capitalising on other’s mistakes. Not to mention the eminent re-start that the fleet faces in the Straights of Malacca.

date: Monday, 23 January 2012 15:25:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 23rd January 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012 | by ADOR

Right now it is a drag race across the southern tip of Sri Lanka with every boat sailing within 1 or 2 degrees of each other and nobody having yet tacked.

Sadly it is a drag race which we are struggling to compete in. We are trying every possible trim or sail configuration to try and match the boats around us but we are yet to find 5th gear.

On the bright side we have been consistently more lifted than expected so we have been able to sail a much more direct route to Pulau We than anticipated. We are also having a good tussle with Telefonica who are not able to use their code zero due to a breakage and are therefore struggling when the wind drops below 10 knots.

We have exactly 1000 miles upwind to Pulau We so we need to minimise our losses and try to stay in touch for when the inevitable shake up occurs in the Malacca Straits. Conditions onboard are hot and sweaty but flat water is making for very pleasant sailing on deck and good sleeping conditions below.

date: Monday, 23 January 2012 10:10:02 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 22nd January 2012

Sunday, 22 January 2012 | by ADOR

It certainly feels good to be sailing again and hopefully we have now put all the piracy and shipping logistics behind us. I guess it is no secret now that the boats were loaded and unloaded in the Maldives. This sounds very exotic but the reality in Male was somewhat different to that.

Anyway we are five hours in to leg 3b and the race is settling down. There were some big shifts shortly after the start which spread the fleet out but now we are almost all in a line heading East for Pulau We.

The only real excitement so far seems to have been onboard Telefonica as they looked to have blown the tack out of their code zero just as we were peeling to our G1. They lost a few miles but have recovered now and are no doubt fixing whatever let go. On Azzam we are settling in to our watch system. We struggled for speed a bit under code zero but now we seem to be holding or gaining on most boats.

I don’t foresee a lot to write about tactically in the next few days as we troop to the east, but onboard there is a lot to learn about sail trim, crossovers and modes of sailing. For now it is just nice to be racing in the company of other boats and in warm weather and flat water.

date: Sunday, 22 January 2012 17:27:48 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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