Team Blog – Ian Walker – 10th March 2012

Saturday, 10 March 2012 | by ADOR

After nearly three weeks of intense racing, we finally came within sight of the ‘land of the long white cloud’ – and guess what – it was covered with a long white cloud. Thanks to more lifted breezes behind, the fleet has closed up considerably and we are now only an hour and a half behind Camper and two hours behind Telefonica. This compares to over 200 miles a couple of days ago. On the flip side Sanya are only two hours behind us now. It will make for a tense finish but we will still need something special to close this down in the last 175 miles to the finish.

We have sailed well the last couple of days with Jules calling some nice shifts to work our way upwind. Maybe the incentive of getting to the finish line is bringing out the best in everyone onboard. The pressure has been on today to get round North Cape before the current turned against us – we managed this by the skin of our teeth. Tactically it looks pretty dull between here and the finish but maybe the wind will die tonight and give us a chance – we must keep believing. Another fifth place would not reflect how well we have sailed in this leg – our main mistake appears to have been doing too well early in the leg and leaving us able to lay to the East of the Solomons which turned into a big loss. I am still smarting from this!

What’s done is done – we will make one last big effort tonight and if nothing else we should have a great daytime arrival in the City of Sails tomorrow. I must say ‘Bravo’ to Franc and his team for a perfectly sailed leg on Groupama. I am sure they had their own challenges but from where I am sat they look to have done the perfect job controlling the leg from start to finish. Seven days to the inport race – joy!

date: Saturday, 10 March 2012 16:06:24 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 10th March 2012

Saturday, 10 March 2012 | by ADOR

“Look at that boys – god’s country, breath it in!” This is how Craig Satterthwaite greeted the on deck watch this afternoon shortly after the ‘land ho!’ was called. Apart from the lone Aussie on board (Bubs), everyone had a good little chuckle at the comment. The rest of the afternoon Craig and Justin Ferris (the two Kiwis on board) were back and forth discussing the different landmarks and arguing over the Maori tribes names of the bits of land. The rest of us just sat back and were quietly stoked by the fact we were finally here.

Thinking about it now, the only other bit of land we have seen since our start in Sanya was the Solomon island chain - a long way to go looking at an empty horizon. Never mind though, because now we are staring at the huge cliffs of North Cape and the past 20 days are now buried in the very back of our minds. It has been a tough race from China, but if we are to be ready for the next leg and the treachery of the southern ocean – we must focus on what’s ahead. Though I’m sure there will be a few sodas and stories shared over the next couple days.

Tuesday is our day off this week, but its already looking like most of us will be at work anyway. One day of fun is not worth twenty of misery if the boat still leaks in the southern ocean. Even right now everyone is fighting to get to the computer to finalize their work list for the upcoming week. Luckily the boat is in relatively good shape and the shore crew should be able to work through the lists during the short stopover period. Finish tomorrow after lunch… now just worried that we may have trouble walking properly seeing as though we haven’t been on land in such a long time!

Happy birthday to my brother Eli too!

date: Saturday, 10 March 2012 16:03:59 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 9th March 2012

Friday, 09 March 2012 | by ADOR

This leg is starting to feel like we’re running in mud. The closer we get to the finish the more resistance we encounter. The current is against us, five-metre ocean swells and dead up wind. Oh yes, and the breeze is supposed to drop below 10 knots again in the next few hours. Thus we have now dubbed our journey ‘the leg that just won’t die!’ Our ETA remains Sunday lunchtime, but we’re not counting our chickens until we can see sky tower on the horizon.

If you are watching the tracker you’ll have noticed we just tacked for a few hours and have just gone back. (If you stopped watching the tracker during our 1,000+ miles of easting towards Hawaii, fair enough!) This recent tack was the result of the upcoming wind shift and pressure change that the fleet ahead of us is experiencing at the moment. Possibly the only benefit we have bringing up the rear is to not make the same mistakes or get caught out as those ahead have done. Additionally, Team Sanya along with us will be carrying more pressure in from behind and should inevitable compress with Camper towards the finish. Whether it will be enough to shot at fourth place may be a tough one, but we are fighting for every inch right now.

date: Friday, 09 March 2012 11:50:55 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 8th March 2012

Thursday, 08 March 2012 | by ADOR

It’s finally beginning to feel like the home stretch of leg 4 on board Azzam. Next weeks daily plans in Auckland are starting to formulate and talk of the best pie shop in town has already led to much dispute. A couple of us have already sorted out where we are going surfing, and others where to go fishing. It’s a shame that we’re not in NZ longer, but I’m sure we will be able to cram a few weeks worth of fun into a couple days.

Right now it’s looking like Sunday afternoon local time that we will hopefully be rolling into town. However, this far down in the southern hemisphere, it’s never a straight call as to what the weather is doing. Our strategy at the moment is cover our lead over Sanya and possibly start taking miles out of Camper while they’re in lighter breeze and we are charging in from behind with more pressure. No doubt it will be tough to make it back on them with fewer than 800 miles to go though, so we’re being realistic about it.

Unfortunately as I’m writing this and looking over at the instruments in the nav-station, the breeze has just dropped below 12 knots again. The current is now opposing the breeze as well - creating an unpleasant chop that our ‘super tanker bow’ loves to plough violently into. Definitely need an iPod to sleep through the off watch now.

Artists of the week:

Pacific Watch (Craig and Bubs): Fleetwood Mac

Atlantic Watch (Rob and Juddy): Nothing…they forgot their iPods.

date: Thursday, 08 March 2012 14:21:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 7th March 2012

Wednesday, 07 March 2012 | by ADOR

If anybody ever asks me to go to New Caledonia they can forget it I am not going. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know where New Caledonia was, I haven’t even been within 100 miles of the place but I don’t like it and I never want to go. We have spent all day fighting to escape a huge cloud and no wind that spun up to leeward of New Caledonia today. I wouldn’t have felt so hard done by if we hadn’t had a conservative strategy of staying on Groupama and Puma’s line 100 miles offshore of the island.

Groupama and Puma sailed on by without missing a beat and we lost 100 miles at least! I guess it was all in the timing. It was tough to go further West off the island as that would have meant reaching down behind Camper and conceding fourth place – and it may not have actually helped as the cloud grew so far West. Had this blow not come hot on the heels of the three boats escaping to the West I wouldn’t have minded quite so much. Anyway there is no time for feeling sorry for ourselves we have a battle on with Sanya, we have to try and still catch Camper and we have a race to be ready for the next leg. The wind is building, we are nearly pointing at Auckland and there is just over 1100 miles to go – life isn’t too bad we’ll try and get there for the weekend.

date: Wednesday, 07 March 2012 15:19:16 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 6th March 2012

Tuesday, 06 March 2012 | by ADOR

I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog for the last 2 days for 2 reasons. Firstly we were having a torrid time trying to get round the top of the Solomon Islands for a day, then we have been having just as bad a time trying to get through our own mini doldrums into the South East trades. All the while this was going on, the boats that were behind and couldn’t lay the Solomon Islands were being offered a ‘get out of jail free’ card in the West.

So after sailing so well and pushing hard to get into 3rd we now find ourselves in 5th but hopefully with a shot still at Camper. The leaders have been able to extend away from the lighter winds to a very impressive lead. So what has brought me to the keyboard? Well, firstly I feel a lot better after a fresh water shower in a huge rain cloud earlier today – the sight of 11 hairy, smelly guys running around covering themselves in shower gel in the rain was very amusing. Secondly we have just made a nice gain back at Camper and so maybe we still have a chance to convert our Easterly position into gains.

Everyone is also feeling a bit more upbeat now because we have our fraction zero up and are going reasonably fast towards Auckland for the first time in days. A lot of focus is already being put on the Auckland stopover – and how short it is going to be. The shore crews are going to have to really be on their game to turn the fleet around in a couple of days. There will be no time to order and make spares there – everything we need has to be put in action now so any spare time onboard is spent co-ordinating job lists and parts lists with them. The sailors have to get their heads around the fact that after 25 days straight sailing they will only get one or two days off before taking on the Southern Ocean.

This will be particularly hard on the kiwis who are looking forward to precious time at home after long stints abroad. Anyway – the best thing we can do on all counts is to get to Auckland as fast as we can. We still haven’t given up hope of getting there faster than a few boats around us.

Ian Walker

0430 6th March

16 45S 161 55E

date: Tuesday, 06 March 2012 19:14:30 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 3rd March 2012

Saturday, 03 March 2012 | by ADOR

Today has been a big decision day for the navigators and skippers from third place back. The strong west going current and headed winds meant that boats in there were looking unlikely to clear to the east of the Solomon Islands. This would mean huge losses to tack up to those of us further east or they could try to go through the islands. The weather models also swung slightly in favour of a more western route today and so it appears the decisions were made.

For Telefonica and Sanya this would have been frustrating after fighting to get up to the east, but yet a relatively easy decision due to the fact they were furthest west. For Camper it would have been very hard as they would be giving up on Telefonica, but able to consolidate over Sanya. Onboard Abu Dhabi we were caught a bit between the devil and the deep blue sea. To turn down west would have meant giving up Telefonica and Camper but would have consolidated over Sanya. To carry on east means a chance of third place (unless we can catch Groupama or Puma) but also a big risk of ending up last. This would be infuriating after sailing such a solid leg to date.

For Puma and Groupama there was no decision to be made as they are committed to the east. So who will win… East or West? It is fair to say that it is fluctuating between weather models as to which should be the favoured route. There are also some considerable unknowns such as the extent of any wind shadows under the mountains in the Solomon Islands and the very variable weather predictions. For sure the westerly route is risky (we have been looking at it for a few days now) but if you are at the back of the fleet or if all the boats behind you follow what is there to lose?

Having been in third place we have the most to lose, but to go west would have been to give up two positions anyway. This must be great viewing for the armchair navigators at home and whilst we are well and truly on our own out here now there will be much anticipation of each and every position report.

date: Saturday, 03 March 2012 16:04:09 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Wade Morgan – 2nd March 2012

Friday, 02 March 2012 | by ADOR

Hi there! Bubs here! A busy watch just over, lots of rainy squalls, top wind speed of 38 knots, top boat speed around 33 knots, great stuff. Seems like the constant ‘pressure washing’ is over for the time being and we get a chance to dry out. The workshop has been closed today, no issues onboard and Azzam is running very smoothly, lots of good mile gains to show for it so spirits are high. We have prepared Big Breeze’s (Paul Willcox) ‘breakfast from King Neptune’ for the morning equator crossing ceremony… expect a feature from Nick on that one.

After two weeks and 2331 miles to Auckland, I sit here and the mind begins to think of arrival. I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and daughter, she has some new ballet moves to show me so that will be great to see. Catching up with old kiwi friends and a few old haunts from when I used to spend a bit of time there is on the to do list as well.

Also Joyce if your reading this I have surveyed the lads and we would love 11 chunky pepper steak ponsonby pies and say another half dozen mixed variety when we get in if that can be arranged. Oh, and Ailsa can you sort the Coke Cola! Thanks!!!

date: Friday, 02 March 2012 13:07:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 2nd March 2012

Friday, 02 March 2012 | by ADOR

Finally we are really seeing the benefit of being in the east and today we have passed both Camper and Telefonica to hold third place. The positioning of the boats doesn’t really tell the full story though as we are getting tested regularly by huge clouds and rain squalls which try their best to push us off course. Some squalls have been up to 38 knots and have resulted in us having to sail 60 degrees off course to weather them.

It is a real test for the crews who need to rapidly reduce sail as fast as they can and hang on tight until the rain squall passes. It is then a race to get back to full sail as the wind drops away behind the cloud. In the day time this is not too bad as you can see the clouds and plot your path through them, but at night it takes on a whole new dimension. The only tool we have to help us is our radar that can pick up the rain signaling the advancing squalls. It is safe to say new have been getting better at this with practice but there remains a slight element of luck as to which clouds hit you, how hard and when. One cloud can make or lose you tens of miles so as the sun goes down over the horizon we will be looking to ride the front edge of as many as we can in the darkness tonight.

The only frustration aboard has been the downtime we have had due to some minor breakages. When you are travelling at 20 knots, having to slow down for even 20 minutes results in many lost miles. I suspect we have lost about 20 miles now but I also suspect we are not alone in this after a punishing few days at breakneck speed.

Looking forward we have some very interesting navigational challenges ahead. For now we are constrained by the Solomon Islands which we must pass to the east of but after that some big decisions will need to be made. Right now the fleet remains very tightly packed and I don’t think even Groupama can be sleeping easy as the fleet compresses into the back of them. Another person who will not be sleeping easy is Paul Willcox. He is 75 miles away from his first Equator crossing and King Neptune is growing very restless.

date: Friday, 02 March 2012 12:27:31 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 1st March 2012

Thursday, 01 March 2012 | by ADOR

We are now about halfway into our drag race across the trade winds and the wind has been starting to abate. It’s not that it has been particularly windy - perhaps averaging 22 knots, but we have been sailing at 90 degrees to the wind which is fast and the exact angle to propel all the water straight over the deck and whoever is standing in its way.

The toll is starting to add up both in minor impact injuries to crew (ribs, legs etc) and minor breakages to the boat. Our most major breakage yesterday was the jib tack ram which snapped clean in half. Fortunately we had a safety line in place to save the jib and Justin and Bubs have been able to rig up a jury system that seems to be holding so far. The whole event cost us about 10 miles. Otherwise most of the issues are minor but very annoying. The toilet blocked last night - not a nice job for two people bouncing around in there.

All but three drinks bottles have washed away and some minor but persistent leaks have lead to a minor electrical fire (Nick's lap top charger) and some less than desirable conditions below. Jules and my shared bunk has two nice water features over it. One drips on your head every 30 seconds and the other builds up a nice pool of water that is tipped onto you at waist height every time the boat over heels! It's a good job it is warm and the sleeping bags are made of goretex.

None of this can prepare you for the conditions on deck however and harness lines have been mandatory for a couple of days. It is hard to move around and real care must be taken when moving from the hatch to the 'safe zone' in the back windward corner. In the racing we have been going well, gaining miles on our nearest boats, but it will get harder from here on as we will lose the benefit of more lifted wind in the east. It feels great to be right in the mix and it also feels good to see the estimated time of arraival coming forward all the time to Auckland thanks to some potentially favourable weather.

In summary Azzam is slightly bruised but still charging along well.

date: Thursday, 01 March 2012 15:27:19 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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مدونة عادل خالد عضو فريق أبوظبي للمحيطات

Thursday, 01 March 2012 | by ADOR

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كانت آخر زيارة لي إلى الصين عام 2008، وخضت حينها تجربة رائعة في سباقات القوارب الشراعية من فئة "ليزر" ضمن دورة الألعاب الأولمبية. ومنحتني عودتي إلى هذا البلد مجدداً فرصة إلقاء نظرة على التقدم الذي أحرزته خلال السنوات الـ 4 الماضية سواء على الصعيد الشخصي أو الرياضي.

ويختلف عالمي اليوم كثيراً عن عالمي خلال تلك الفترة، فقد تخليت عن السباقات الفردية التي تستغرق ساعات معدودة لأتوجه إلى سباق جماعي أجوب فيه العالم على مدى 9 أشهر متواصلة من التحدي والمغامرة، وكل ذلك في تجربة فريدة ستترك في نفسي انطباعاً مذهلاً عن هذه المنافسة التي أخوضها مع مجموعة من أعتى البحارة وأكثرهم خبرة على مستوى العالم. وقد أتاح لي ذلك إمكانية اختبار روح العمل الجماعي والتعاون بطريقة لم أعهدها من قبل؛ فعندما كنت أشارك في سباقات القوارب الشراعية من طراز "ليزر"، كنت لوحدي دون أي مساعدة. أما الآن، فأنا مع 10 زملاء يمدّون لي يد العون وأتشارك معهم أفراح ومصاعب هذه الرحلة الأسطورية.

غادرنا ميناء سانيا الصيني لنمخر عباب المحيط على متن "عزّام" متوجهين إلى نيوزيلندا في الجولة الرابعة من السباق، والتي لا بد لنا من إحراز نتيجة جيّدة فيها لكي نحافظ على آمالنا باحتلال أحد المراكز الثلاثة الأولى، فالنجاح هو الهدف الذي يصبو إليه الجميع في هذه الملحمة البحرية.

وتتسم هذه الجولة بشيء من الغرابة، فقد قرر المنظمون إطلاقها على مرحلتين نظراً للظروف الجوية السيئة؛ حيث قطعنا في المرحلة الأولى مسافة 40 ميل بحري بعد انطلاقنا من ميناء سانيا، واسترحنا خلال الليل لنواصل السباق صباح يوم الاثنين. وأنا أستطيع تفهّم هذا القرار جيداً، إذ من الأفضل للفرق المتنافسة أن تنتظر قليلاً ريثما تهدأ شدة الرياح الخطرة بهدف حماية القوارب والطواقم المشاركة من أي ضرر محتمل. وكما قال ملاحنا، فإن هذا السباق هو منافسة رياضية في نهاية المطاف وليس معركة حتى الموت.

وعلى أي حال، نحن سعداء لكوننا في أعالي المحيط مجدداً ولو أن الأيام القليلة الأولى من الجولة كانت صعبة إلى حد كبير. وقد تعرّض زميلنا ويد مورجان لإصابة في رأسه على متن المركب، ولكنه لحسن الحظ لم يتأذ كثيراً. إلا أن الحادثة بحد ذاتها جاءت لتذكرنا مجدداً بوجوب أخذ ما نقوم به على محمل الجد، والاستعداد على أكمل وجه لكل ما قد يباغتنا من حالات طارئة.

وليس لدينا فكرة حقيقية عما قد نواجهه خلال الأسابيع القادمة، فالطقس يتغير بشكل دائم. وكانت الجولة السابقة أسوأ جولة على الإطلاق في تاريخ السباق من حيث صعوبة الأحوال الجوية.

ويبدو أن هذه الجولة ستكون صعبة هي الأخرى، حيث أخذت الرياح تشتد مترافقةً مع ارتفاع في الأمواج كلما ابتعدنا أكثر عن جزيرة هاينان إلى درجة أصبحنا فيها عاجزين عن فعل أي شيء على متن المركب، ولم نعد نستطيع التحكم بالأشرعة أو دفة القيادة كما يجب.

واسمحوا لي أن أترككم الآن على أمل أن تحمل المدوّنة القادمة أخباراً أكثر إيجابية


date: Thursday, 01 March 2012 10:05:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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