Just days away from the finish, Vendée Globe skipper Pip Hare faces relentless squalls, constant wind and sail changes, and the worst weather to date
It is relentless out here. Squall after squall. Multiple wind shifts. Waves coming from every direction. Just this second one wave has hit Medallia side on, smashing over the top of the cockpit so water has come down below to where I am sitting, at the same time we are surfing down a wave from behind. It is impossible to stand or move around without holding onto something and going forward in the dark to reef the main. I am just crawling on hands and knees.
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With my head torch illuminating the deck it is impossible to see or get a sense of incoming waves so it’s lot safer just to crawl to where I need to get to and then stand up when I can hold onto something. I am looking forwards to walking upright on a surface that does not move.
The route to the finish is not easy or obvious and seems to change every day – sadly getting further away. The conditions are so volatile with wind speeds spanning a range of 25 knots in the space of an hour, that I need to change gear a lot. With these constant changes it is impossible to keep to the speeds my routing options suggest. Every time I swap headsails I loose a bit of ground, then when the breeze dies and I am underpowered I lose ground while I wait to see if it is a temporary lull or here to stay. Squalls will take me off in strange directions, sometimes I can make ground here but it is the toss of a coin. I am now having to run my routing at 70% polars and even then it is a struggle to keep up with the theoretical boat on the screen.
It would be easy to get demoralised with all this. It’s definitely the worst weather of the whole race and since I started looking at my potential finish dates five days ago, my ETA has slipped by three days. Yesterday as night fell I was starting to feel a little like this. I was incredibly tired, had found no opportunities to sleep during the day and the night was shaping up to be a shocker. But I zoomed out from the moment and thought about what I am going through. If the finish was not ‘just over there’ then I would be taking this all in my stride, creating opportunities to sleep and with a long view over the next five days. Also worth noting that if the finish was not ‘just over there’ then I probably would not be in this system at all or would have got out of it pretty pronto. But the answer is to look beyond the finish. It’s a technique I use for running up hills – to run over the hill and not up it. Focus on a point beyond the hill summit as the finish, and it helps with managing energy and expectations.
The dawn is just breaking now on another grey, cloudy aggressive day and I need to get out there and fight some more. These conditions are not fun, but they are part of the race and I have not just sailed 97% of the way around the world to be broken now.
THE NEXT ETAs
Thursday 11th February between 2am and midday
– Arnaud BOISSIERES (La Mie Câline – Artisans Artipôle)
– Kojiro SHIRAISHI (DMG MORI – Global One)
Thursday, 11th February between midday and midnight
– Alan ROURA (La Fabrique)
– Stéphane le DIRAISON (Time For Oceans)
During the night Thursday, 11th February – Friday 12th February
– Pipe HARE (Medallia)
Friday 12th February evening
– Didac COSTA (One Planet One Ocean)
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