Closing the loop
It was a nice feeling leaving Newport knowing that we were heading out for an eight-nine day sprint; it was a welcome change to all the previous 18-20 day legs.
The weather gods must have been looking down on us as the fog cleared and we had glorious sunshine 30 minutes before the start and until we got out of the bay and back into thick fog once more. We had a close fought battle for the first day with fast reaching and then into downwind sailing. The weather for the leg was challenging as we had to make a call to go to the north or stay to the south. We made the call to go north and a lot of the fleet chose to stay south.
It was a stressful few days not knowing how we would come out at the other end. When we closed back together we ended up around 30 miles behind the leader so not ideal, but there was still a long way to go. The other thing that we noticed onboard, but no one else would have seen from the outside, is that we were constantly sailing through the Gulf Stream, which is a warm channel of water which brings water from the south all the way across the Atlantic to Europe. The boats that were south of this were sailing in 24-26 degree water, sunshine, really lovely conditions. We, on the other hand, north of the Gulf Stream were in three-six degree water and thick fog… lovely.
Just before the fleet closed back together we went into another few days of full-on, fast and wet sailing which brought back memories of the Southern Ocean. I had forgotten how brutal it can be on board as we were getting washed off the wheel and thrown around all over the place. Everyone had bruises all over from the battering we received. Team AkzoNobel sailed an epic 601.63 miles in 24 hours which in these boats is a serious achievement, so full respect to them for achieving that. It was a relief when the wind dropped off and you could actually walk not crawl around the boat for a change.
Coming into Cardiff we knew it was going to be tricky. Light wind, a lot of current and an opportunity to come back to the leaders. By choosing a different route to the leading boats we managed to reel them to a range of 10 miles and we were still gaining, but they had just enough to get them over the line and we ended up finishing in third place. With MAPFRE behind us, third place also means we are now once again in first place overall. It’s a great time to be in the lead with only two legs left to go, but MAPFRE is only one point behind and Team Brunel just three points adrift, so it’s still really anyone’s game.
Another thing that I hadn’t thought about until we were sailing in the Irish Sea just before arriving is that we have now sailed around the world. We still have two legs to go in the race but we have sailed from Europe to Europe via all the major capes, which when I thought about it, was just fantastic. It’s something I have wanted to achieve for years and I am very happy I was able to do it with Dongfeng Race Team. We are very close to the end now with two legs and about six or seven days of sailing to come. So it’s really all to play for and we are going to push all the way to the end.
See you in Gothenburg Jack