Despite an exciting day or two gaining many miles over the fleet, it is now clear that the leaders are escaping in strong downwind conditions to the south east of us. We have to head north to evade some light winds and the gap between us and the leaders will grow considerably. Everyone onboard knows the likely scenario so we begin our own race against time.
We still hope to catch the fleet up – it may just take a little longer than we had hoped. For a start the weather has a habit of changing… plus 6,000 miles is a long way to Brazil! Right now it looks like there is unlikely going to be an easy way back into this leg - probably not until after Cape Horn.
One result of this is that it means we are going to be all alone across the Southern Ocean. Our safety net - the other boats - will be hundreds of miles away downwind. This is not ideal but it is a situation we knew was very likely when we left Auckland 24 hours after the fleet. It is something we will consider in every decision and move we make.
Another result is that as a team we will need to work hard to maintain the intensity required to sail these boats fast. No longer will motivation be provided by the three hourly position reports that help us judge how we are doing against the other teams - these are meaningless with no boats in the near vicinity or in similar wind. We will continue set our own goals and to work together to maintain our own high standards.
It is typical that we have now finally got the conditions we have been waiting all race for with 17 knots downwind sailing but the fleet are 250 miles away!
There is some good news though. It may be foggy and damp on deck but the sea is still 16 degrees so it is far from cold. Conditions below are ideal and are probably the best we have had for sleeping all race. Azzam and the sails are in perfect shape and it sounds like the crew is less battered than on some other boats.
In other news we were chased by a juvenile albatross today – these birds never cease to put a smile on your face whatever is happening in the race. The team on Azzam is as determined as ever. Spirits remain high – we will just need a bit more patience than normal!