Friday, January 13, 2017

Match Racing in Mid-Atlantic

The Cape to Rio Race boats are into the 2nd half of their race across the South Atlantic. The faster boats from the 2nd start are easily-drive and very powerful boats, able to sail fast in light winds. They have passed to the south of the more cruising-oriented boats that started in the first start, six days before the main start. Now the bulk of the 2nd start fleet is overtaking those slower boats.

The Didi 38 "Black Cat" is in a group of five boats that has been sailing in fairly close proximity to each other for quite a few days. "Close proximity" is a relative concept, of course. These boats look very close to each other when seen on the tracking map but, on the wide blue South Atlantic Ocean, in reality they are likely not even seeing each other on the horizon except briefly if their courses cross.

"Black Cat" (purple) has been crossing paths with the Stadt 65 "INSV Mhadei" (green) ever since the start of the race, they can't seem to break away from each other for long without coming back for their next meeting. The other three boats in this group are the Beneteau First 447 "Ray of Light" (brown), the Fast 42 "Blue Label Telecoms" (grey) and the Beneteau First 40 CR "First 40" (mauve). The colours all refer to the arrows and tracks shown on the tracking map image below. The other tracks and arrows are mostly boats that were in the first start. Seen in a zoomed-out view of the map it looks almost as though these boats are match racing each other in mid-Atlantic. In reality each boat is gybing downwind to get the best angles for fastest VMG (Velocity Made Good) toward the finish line in Rio. The best angle for each boat depends on the sails that they have available onboard but all are following similar courses and tactics.
Tracking map courtesy of Xtra-Track. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Having sailed this race a few times myself, I know from experience that boats that look close by on a tracking map or plotted on a chart will be far over the horizon and can't be seen from deck level. I have on many occasions gone to the top of the mast in a bosun's chair to look for those boats that are so close but can't be seen.

From deck level you are alone on a big flat piece of blue water. From the top of the mast you can see so much further and the other boats may appear as dots on a much broader horizon. The big flat piece of water grows bigger the higher you go and becomes a massive upside-down bowl, curved all round, with your boat right in the geometric centre of it all. You are at the centre of your own private world, for once in your life. It brings a totally different perspective to sailing out into the wide blue yonder.

It can bring a sense of euphoria, a feeling of wanting this to never end. You feel that you are alone in the world and life is wonderful, that you really don't care a damn about the problems that are troubling the world, who has or hasn't won whatever election, what is happening to your investments in Wall Street, who is making war with whom or other worries of day-to-day living on land. Yet, at the same time, you also yearn for loved ones, for the personal contact with family and friends who are not out there on the boat to enjoy what you are loving so much.

I hope to have another report from "Black Cat" in the next day or so, maybe some photos also.