10 November 2015: Report to TJV race committee

Phillippa Hutton-Squire’s report to the race committee
This is our 3rd monday at sea and we are only just half way to Itajai. I cant believe how slow this race has been. I would have thought that by now we would be at the equator.

Yesterday we made a tactical decision to head west again. Having looked at the front runners and our tactiques to cross the doldrums we decided we needed to be further west. Kite up and we blasted along all afternoon. The wind steadily increased and by sunset we made a cautious decision to go bear headed with one reef. The waves were big and the wind was gusty and strong. We still had 3000nm to go so we needed to be careful and look after the boat. By 23H00 there was a strange line of black clouds in the sky. It was like we were going to sail under a bridge. The waves started to break over the back of the boat and down my front. I was now cold and confused as to what was going on. The air was warm and the wind was up again. The boat was cork screwing all of the waves. I could not see any thing as it was very dark. Soon the clouds moved away and the wind eased off. I think we pasted through a front. After the front we gybed south and hoisted the fractional kite again. It was
cold so
we were back in our boots and warm clothes but soon we were too hot for words.

Pip and I took it in turns to helm as it was tricky. You could not see anything, one really had to use their senses. Finally sunrise came and we started the day with oats and tea. We put the pilot on as the wind had dropped so we could chat about the weather and make a plan for the coming days. Happy to be heading south and, both of us happy with the miles we had gained during the night it was a good way to start the day.

Today was my first shower and second time I brushed my hair. We have been so busy on board that Pip and I haven’t really had much time to do these things. With the kite up and going a long at 10 knots or so I poured some sea water over myself. This time is was voluntary. It was not a rogue wave coming and bashing me on the head. I got out the soap and washed my hair. Long hair is not easy to manage at sea but it sure felt good after several buckets of water. Feeling refreshed and the auto pilot doing its trick we are finally heading south.

Concise 2 Blog: 9 November 2015

9 November TJV blog Concise 2
I am exhausted! This race is turning into an epic that no-one predicted, we have been sailing now for 15 days and only today will we cross the half way mileage mark to Itajai. We have had to inventory our food, check water supplies, ration autopilot use to ensure there is enough diesel to charge the batteries for another two weeks. Food is not scarce yet but there will be little to spare.

It is not only the number of days that seem relentless but the conditions themselves have allowed little scope to recharge our own batteries, we are hand steering as much as possible while the other person attends to keeping the boat in order, and sleeping where ever possible, during the day we are able to do longer stints on the helm, at night time we change more frequently and need to be sympathetic to each other’s different needs and levels of concentration in the dark. There is only a very think moon at the moment so when there is cloud cover it is hard to see the spinnaker or waves to steer, you end up squinting through the murk to find the outline of the sail, the instruments glow red close at hand but being fixated on them whilst steering can lead to a disorientation and disengagement with the sea all around you.

for some reason it always seems to kick off at night as well, sail changes galore, wind shifts, squalls. For the following two nights in a row we have gybed at night which takes about an hour from start to finish with both of us working to set the boat up, check and double check ropes and lines, perform the manoeuvre and then tidy up. not to mention of course moving all of that gear down below. The difficulties of doing all this in the dark are not straight forward, we must use head torches to find the right ropes but then that destroys your night vision. When it is cooler on deck we are wearing thermals and foul weather gear but the moment you move around or go below to move equipment it becomes like working in a steam room. Going onto the foredeck wearing a head torch makes you completely blind to the waves coming at you so very unaware of how the boat is going to move. I have given up trying to stand and just like in my mini I just crawl everywhere at night. It is not glamorous
but I am still here!

Yesterday we made another one of those tactical decisions to go West. Yes, I know! stop banging your heads on the table, it didn’t work out so well for us last time but we still have another 600 odd miles to get to the doldrums and just feel that there is more wind over in the west and we will have more options for where to cross the doldrums in a couple of days. The rest of the fleet currently looks to be following the line of the lead boat which is still wallowing while i’m right. Cross your fingers for us!

The tactic for more wind paid off in spades in latter part of yesterday afternoon and overnight as we were flying with our little kite up in 30 knots of wind. The ride was incredible with the boat regularly surfing and holding 17 or 18 knots of wind for a time and bursting out of waves, bow completely in mid air only to leap from the next wave and carry on in mid air beyond that. the steering required a huge amount of concentration, I got two 20 knot surfs but all the time with a knot in my stomach knowing if I get it wrong we will wipe out in a big way. We sustained the pace for a good few hours and made the best mileage we could, but as the sun set and we contemplated a night of on the edge extreme sailing in over 30 knots, neither of us having slept much in the last 24hrs we discussed whether we should take the kite

8 November 2015: Report to the TJV Race Committee

8 November 2015 Report for the TJV Race Committee
Change of Scene on Concise 2
Its Sunday afternoon and we are flying downwind to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. Sun is out, kite is up and there is white water rushing out from under the boat and we surf from one wave to the next. We are having fun, pushing the boat and making some good miles to Itajai.
Since Thursday life on board has changed a lot. We have escaped the high pressure where we had very little wind. We where getting very frustrated not knowing what sail to have up when and which forecast to believe in. We had been stuck in the high for way to long. On Friday afternoon a steady breeze started to fill in. We had the gennaker up and then the A2 (the big pink kite) and then we would swap them over we did this a few time before we really started to move. Each time we got more and more hot and bothered. Happy to escape the high as night set in. Friday night was the first night at sea since the start where we did not make a sail change. Pip and I took it in turns helming and making Concise 2 go fast. We started to eat up the miles.
Now we are sailing downwind with white water spraying everywhere. Life on board has changed a lot since Thursday! We are A) moving a long at over 10 knots constantly B) we have wet bums again with all of the water coming over the deck(it is too hot to wear water proof trousers) and C) we both have smiles on our faces. We are starting to close in on our competitors. Pip and I are taking it in turns to helm to make the most of our speed and to save diesel. We have been at sea for 2 weeks today and we think that we are going to be a bit short on diesel for charging so we are hand steering to save on fuel and push the boat harder. This however comes with side effects – You have a wet bum all the time. I have a pair of dry shorts down below and a pair of shorts for on deck that are always wet. It is well worth it. When you are on the helm and suddenly the bow is higher than the horizon and you are surfing at 17 knots down a wave. The challenge is to not get the water to come down
the deck
towards you. Which is almost impossible. The nights are hard. It is dark as the moon is very small now and you can not really see the waves. It is a bit like driving blind folded. You have to feel the waves and feel the boat watching the kite to maximize the speed.
The dolphins still come to play with us in the early hours of the morning. This morning they looked like torpedoes in the sea. Phosphoresance lighting them up as they surfed the waves and jumped next to the boat. It is a spectacular sight.
We are now trying to set ourselves up for the doldrums and to cross the equator. This is a very important part of the race. Today we are lining Concise 2 up to come in at the right angle. We have a game plan and we will watch the leaders and the weather over the next few days very carefully before we finalize our strategy.

Concise 2 Blog. 7 November 2015

Concise 2 blog: 7th November 2015

After another excruciating day of not quite getting the boat going yesterday, we finally found our trade winds just after the sun set and spirits were instantly lifted with the hoisting of our big pink spinnaker.

It had been a tough day, we sailed and sailed but never seemed to catch up with the wind that everyone else seemed to have. Like running for a bus but never ever making it. There were a couple of false starts where a promising uplift in the wind strength had us clambering to hoist the spinnaker, only for it to flog uselessly when up and have to be taken back down again. As the heat is building each one of these manoeuvres leave you in a hot and irritable state afterwards.

The relief when we finally got the spinnaker up and filled was immense, we had become unstuck from the windless gloom of the last few days and were ready to head south for real now. We have lost a lot of ground, over 100 miles to everyone of our closest competitors which is going to be hard for us to win back now, as conditions appear to be similar and the boats performing at similar speeds. Solidaires en Peleton which had made a stop over for repairs in the Cape Verde islands is back on the course again, meanwhile SNBSM have caught up to within 20 miles of us on the rankings and their 3rd generation shape will be loving these downwind conditions. La Conservateur has an unassailable lead and is currently lining up to take on the doldrums, it will be interesting to see what they have in store for him and doubtless the rest of the fleet will be keenly watching as they make their decisions about where to cross. Again we are suffering slightly from a lack of information around this
with only grib files to aid our decision. We will have the benefit of learning from other mistakes as we watch the front runners go through though in reality, they will be a few days ahead of us, conditions will undoubtedly change and tactically we need to commit to our spot from quite a way off. Last minute changing of minds is not something that works down there.

Last night was excellent for a sailing junky like me, the breeze grew and grew and by the early hours of the morning I was surfing down waves at 13 knots, a full set of stars on the horizon and that exhilarating, rushing amazing feeling. We are now up to pace and working our way south, the chase is on. Phillippa and I are taking it in turns to hand steer to ensure we make the most of every opportunity to ride a wave and work our way down wind. The weather is now properly hot, this is perfect trade wind conditions, sun on your back and the wind in your face; what could be better? Doubtless the way ahead will have more sticky patches but at the moment we are relishing the simplicity of this part of the course, there is nothing to do but sail fast. This is the prize.

Concise 2 Blog: 5 November 2015

Concise 2 : Blog 5 November

I didn’t want to write yesterday. it was a dark day and I had no inclination of sharing it with anyone in the outside world. We made a bad tactical decision many days ago and yesterday we really paid the price for this bad thinking. Not only have we had to endure two days of wallowing with no wind and all of the torture that goes with that but we have had to watch the rest of the fleet in slow time catching up and then over taking us while we were powerless to do anything about it. The pain has been a bit like having a plaster ripped off real slowly one hair at a time.

In our wind hole we have chased every prospect of wind, every tiny zephyr we have hunted down and sailed in what ever direction it might take us, just anywhere but here. Each time a new waft of breeze has come our way we have sincerely believed it was our ticket out of hell, the boat has leapt forward often at 10 knots, ‘this is it’ we have said, ‘here we come Brazil’ only to be dumped back in to nothing some half an hour later and wallowing again.

One of the reasons I have often cited for the attraction of short handed sailing is that the fewer people there are on the boat the fewer options there are to apportion blame. Your own effort directly brings you reward and your own mistakes must be taken on the chin. In the mini fleet we had no outside comms, when I sailed into a wind hole there it was only my imagination that made me conjour up the conditions the rest of the fleet were experiencing, but as we have outside comms available on this race I can see for real just as anyone else watching the tracker the cost of mistakes. The race now truly is in two halves, the first four boats through this high pressure are gone. We have no chance of catching them, La Conservatour the lead boat is the rich man that just keeps getting richer, they have sailed and outstanding race and are streaking ahead.

Pips and I have been dealing with the conditions as best as we can, always hand steering the boat, changing sails even for the tiniest glimmer of hope, eating, sleeping, just getting on with it. Di’s fruit cake has been offering us words of wisdom and consolation in the dark hours of the night – last night’s quote was ‘In sport integrity is everything.’

We still have the back half of the fleet to fight with. Overnight tonight we fell from 6th to 8th place and the two boats ahead of us are eating up the miles while we wallow. We are moving today, we have 3-5 knots of wind from the East and are ghosting our way south to try and find anything better. I can’t say the last couple of days have been enjoyable, I have been choking down and enormous urge to throw all of my toys out of the pram and just not play anymore. I endlessly replay the tactical decisions made, when and why. Every mental time frame I have put on how much longer we will be wallowing has been broken, then I make endless mental calculations of how far back we are falling on the fleet every hour we are struggling to move. At one stage the ETA to Itajai on the GPS said 55 days. When the breeze comes it will be relief I don’t think I need to spend anymore time beating myself up.

Despite all that the dolphins did try to come and cheer us up…..

Concise 2 Blog: Midnight 3/4 November 2015

Concise 2 Blog: Midnight 3/4 November 2015
Pips and I have just swapped over helming and I have come down below from a cloudless star covered night, to listen to the water gently bubbling past the hull of concise 2 as we slip through the silky black water around us.

having spent the last 24hrs banking every ounce of wind we could find and endlessly asking the question, ‘how can we make this boat go faster?’ we have finally fallen into the wind hole that has been holding the front pack back for the last couple of days and it is our turn to grind to a halt.

The wind just literally ran out; one minute we were barrelling along at 9 knots the next the boat had ground to a holt, sails were hanging loose and water was slapping against the transom. knowing that this could be 180 miles of nothing we instantly re-stacked the boat down below to move every scrap of equipment onboard to the bows and into our light wind sailing configuration. Moving the stack is becoming easier as we both get stronger on a daily basis, which is ironic as the stack itself is getting lighter- every time we finish and crush a bottle of water we let each other know that is 1.5 kilos less to move around the boat each time.

it looks like in the short term our hitch to the west paid off and we are once again back up in 6th position, but doubtless the light winds over the next couple of days will once again reshuffle the pack, with particular interest are the boats who have chosen to go east through the canaries – which have more miles to sail but look like they may pick up the breeze earlier than we do.

We are still pretty in the dark as to what is going to happen with the wind, working only from a grib file in an area of no wind and high pressure like this is pretty much impossible so we are taking the strategic approach just to get south in the fastest way possible and to try and understand where and how the new breeze will fill in. We can see from position reports that the front runners are out of the other side and off again, another chance for them to extend their lead. We can only hope to break through as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, despite the fact we would rather be hooning down waves in classic trade winds we are being treated to a rather special night. it is remarkable to have light winds and no swell in an ocean setting like this, so we are able to make best speed out of Concise 2 and are not being tortured by the flogging and flapping that normally accompanies these moments.

To be on deck steering tonight has been one of those incredible soulful moments – there are shooting stars galore, the wind is soft and warm, everything is gentle and we are slipping along at a half reasonable speed. If I could turn my racing head off this would be a 100% perfect experience….. however some of us have places to go.

November 3rd 2015; Report for the Race Committee

Life is comfortable onboard Concise 2 today; we haven’t had to do one single headsail change all day and the consistent conditions have allowed us to bank some decent sleep and recharge our batteries again, both of us sleeping for the first time in a bunk with out foulies on, though Pip woke up with a sore back and so has gone back to sleeping on a bean bag on the floor again.
the biggest frustration for us is around the lack of data we are able to receive on the boat so it has been a difficult 24hrs making decisions about which way to go. Due to a problem with our computer we are not currently able to receive weather information other than grib files, we have no access to satellite imagery or to synoptic charts so are lining up to face the light winds and high pressure ahead of us using grib files only, which are never the best way to understand high pressure systems.
Last night we sat down and discussed our strategy and how we would cope with the light winds ahead of us and both decided to look for a route to the west of the rhum line to take us through. With that decision we spent the rest of the night heading west under gennaker and full main. We have made initial losses against the fleet makng this move,which is always gut wrenching to see; but are holding out this was the right way to come and won’t lead us straight into a vacuos hole of high pressure. Every grib file now that comes in seems to be different, some promising hope for the east and some for the middle. It’s frustrating and easy to get sucked into staring at the computer and trying to figure it out, but we have made a tactical decision and now we need to just concentrate on sailing fast and see if it pays off.
The conditions at the moment are pretty stable and today looked like the first typical Atlantics scene, starting with a warm pink glow of a sunrise, then consistent blue skys and fluffy white cumulus through the day and we have just sailed through a beautiful orange sunset. We are now preparing for the night ahead, fully expecting some tough times light shifty breeze but hopefully not another night of dispair.
The Pips on Concise 2

2 November 2015: Report for the Race Committee

November 2nd Report for the race committee.

With a moonbow (rainbow by night)on the beam, rain squalls all around we wallow in the swells. There was very little wind to gain some momentum, the boat a bashes from side to side, the main sail bangs and the solent smashes against the radar dome, Concise 2 is stuck in a hole! We sat there all night last night. The moon rose above the swells lightening up our sails and trying to make it easier for us to trim our flogging sails. Our patience was tested as we struggled to make way. I decided it was a good time to induce mum’s fruit cake to Pip. I made tea and we had a slice of mums home made individually portioned fruit cake. Our moods were lifted as we enjoyed the treat. We sailed a long at an average of about 3 to 4 knots. Going over the swells and then being sucked into them. It was not easy to make way.
As the sun rose we got a bit more wind and tried several sail combinations and nothing seemed to work. At one stage we sailed full 360 degrees with our big kite up. The wind has been so light and shifty. We lost our windex in one of the low pressures and our log is not working 100% so it has made for some interesting debates about what the wind is really doing. We have a bit of breeze now and are making way under gennaker and full main sail. But today has been good in that we have had a chance to dry the boat out and get her organized again. The best thing that happened today was that I took my boots off for the first time in a week. I am dry again now. Musto midlayers have kept me warm last week while my feet where absolutely sopping wet! I am glad to have made the change to some dry socks and shoes.
Last night we started the night with a big black squall. We had over 30 knots with the A2 (our biggest spinnaker) up. I was on the helm as Concise 2 flew along making great speeds with white water everywhere. Pip stood closely by as we were not too sure how long it would last. The icey cold rain came down very hard making it very difficult to see the kite or the instruments. Fortunately we came out of it with no damage but this was the last time we had good breeze to make way.
Its been a week since we started the TJV. 3 low pressure systems have tested the boat and us. Pip and I have been pushed hard and we have had to dig deep to keep moving but the boat is looking after us and we are looking after her. 4000 nm to go to the finish in Brazil this race is far from over.
Right now we are sailing the weekend to a close with full main and gennaker up. There are lots of rain squalls around and we are not sure what tonight will bring. We have to appologize for our lack of communication. We have has some connection problems. We are working on the situation and we hope that now we can now keep sending more stories.

Concise 2 Blog 1 November 2015

1st November

I feel broken. The last 18 hours have done their best to break my body and my spirit; it’s been nothing like the weather we have had over the last few days but instead last night having had an awesome day driving down waves under the big spinnaker and chasing towards a 300 miler, we sailed into a massive windless hole.

I just don’t know why, I didn’t see it coming, we were somewhere on the forecast chart where it looked like there really should have been wind but we sailed into a hold and stayed there all night and most of this morning.

You might think that dealing with light winds is easy by comparison to a good old gale but in my mind it is a million times worse. During the course of the night we have had nearly every sail up and down at least three times, we have sailed round in circles, we have listened to the endless flogging of the battens in the mainsail, we have been rained on, got wet and cold, changed direction multiple times and every time we thought we had got going the boat would just park up and stop again.

We have moved all of the weight around the boat countless times, forward, from one side to the other and every time we make a manoeuvre like this it takes another little bit of energy and spirit. Neither Phillippa nor I slept much last night and this morning when I go to hoist a sail or pick up a bag of water to move my arms just feel empty. I am operating in a slightly hazy slow motion world through lack of sleep and my sense of humour is bleak.

Position reports this morning confirmed our worst fears – this has been our own personal hell hole – all of the gains we fought and worked so hard for have gone, the sea is playing games with us.

News continues to roll in from the rest of the fleet – Hugo Boss has been abandoned! and the others in our class that have had to pit stop are finding their way back out again, good news for them and bad for us is it looks like the whole of the 40 fleet is on track to be held up for days trying to get past the latitude of the canaries. The forecast is bleak and while we are flogging and slopping around it is all to the gain of those making a pit stop.

We have now finally found some wind and with it the stability to allow both of us to get back in track with sleeping, it is slightly warmer now and I have let my feet out of my soaking wet boots for the first time since Sunday. It is not a pretty sight.

Over the next few days we have more and more light winds on offer so I in particular am going to have to dig deep and try hard not to exhaust myself trying and trying to move forward in impossible conditions. The problem is I have always been a heavy weather girl, give me the big waves and the grrrrrrr any day.

Concise 2 Blog 31 October 2015

31 October
We are having an amazing day today.

We finally popped out of the bottom of our low pressure systems and slowly the wind has been working its way round to behind us.

Last night we had an amazing ride under white sails only, the waves were still big and the wind still blowing so we started to surf south and pick up the pace. At one stage Phillippa hit 22 knots under one gust though it is in dispute if she can claim this record as the pilot was driving.

By the morning we were able to set the code zero and then finally change to our bright pink hedkandi enormous spinnaker.

We have worked really hard to stay on the pace, driving the boat, not being lazy about stacking equipment and changing sails and we were delighted to find out that we’ve moved up the rankings to an incredible 6th overall. OK, it is still really early days in the race but this is way better than we could have imagined it is so gratifying to find out that hard work does pay off.

Last night we celebrated leaving the low pressure by breaking out a piece of vacuum packed home-made fruit cake that had been made by Di, Phillippa’s Mum. Each piece she has made has a word of wisdom attached, last nights was about the wealth of a smile. The cake was absolute manna from heaven, rich, moist and really hit the spot for two tired and bruised sailors. I ate mine in tiny little bites to make the most of each morsel. Small things do make a huge difference.

Sailing under spinnaker today I for the first time got the feeling of power from this boat that I have been looking for so long it was an absolute pleasure to steer and I felt like I always do making miles in the middle of the ocean under spinnaker – that this is the best feeling on this planet, the endless nature of the waves and water as far as the eye can see; go where you want, go as fast as you want, this feeling makes all the uncomfortable physical demands of this sport so totally worth it.