(C)Yann Riou Spindrift Racing
AROUND THE AZORES HIGH
The Spindrift 2 crew have been forced to sail around the Azores High, which began as a barrier in front of the trimaran’s bow, but now stretches further north, forcing the team to wait patiently in areas with little wind. Averaging less than 10 knots at midday, Spindrift 2 upped the pace to 24 knots by late afternoon, with a bearing closer to north north-east. Taking the Jules Verne Trophy is no longer possible, but the challenge is not over for the crew, who will enter the North Atlantic low tomorrow (Tuesday). Strong winds, a bumpy ocean and plummeting temperatures will make this final week feel like the oceans of the south. In fact, the conditions will be tougher than on many of the days they spent sailing around Antarctica.
Day 44 – 16h30 GMT
827 nm behind the current record holder
Distance covered from the start: 26,126 nm
Average speed over 24 hours: 15 knots
Distance over 24 hours: 359 nm
Message from Dona :
Right up until the final moments before announcing that the record was no longer possible for us, your encouragement has lifted us.
The weather forecast has not lied to us. We have known for some time that the door was closing, barring a miracle. But as we approached the Azores. High, that miracle did not happen. It is now clear that we have to work around to the north-west and significantly lengthen our route.
Admittedly, this is what Loïck (Peyron) and his team had to do, however, we will not have the same weather conditions. The storms in the north of France over the last few days, and those to come that we will have to manage carefully in order to navigate them safely, have left us no chance because the seas will be stormy. And even if we could make the necessary speeds, the accumulated deficit would not be overcome in view of the remaining miles to the finish.
Our goal has always been to cross the finish line, finish the work we started on November 22 and complete the circle on this voyage around the world. Nothing has changed. Our routing indicates that we are expected to cross the line on January 8 in the middle of the day, leaving us 36-48 hours, or more than 1,000 miles behind Banque Populaire V.
So, it was time to face the facts. It has never been our style to hide from the truth. To not admit the reasons that led us to make this announcement, would be to lie to the people who have supported us since the beginning of this adventure and give them false hope.
We are here to share an adventure, a real one, where we live the good times, and the bad, together.
Over these last few days, your joy and hope with every mile won made us afraid to spoil a party we too would have liked to have kept going until the finish.
This is how things are and there are no regrets. The adventure is just as beautiful and powerful, and to share it with you is a privilege.
There will still be a celebration, at least hopefully, if the weather is kinder this time than it has been and lets us get back to our home port of La Trinité-sur-Mer.
So, to all those who have the possibility, my 13 companions on this road and I, say to you: see you very soon!
OVERVIEW OF THE WEATHER SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE ROUND-THE-WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT BY JEAN-YVES BERNOT, by Jean-Yves Bernot, onshore router for Spindrift 2
A Voyage around the World
The start: flying downwind
When a strong northerly wind began blowing off Brittany at the end of November, there was no hesitation: we go. Opportunities to fly south are increasingly rare the further into autumn you head, so we got out of there.
It was a good idea: we flew down to the Equator in 4 days 21 hours 29 minutes.
The Doldrums did not pose any particular problems: there was just the normal slow down between active banks of clouds.
The South Atlantic: jumping on the train
Progress in the Southern Hemisphere promised to be a complicated:
- An old cold front parked off Brazil was weakening the flow of trade winds across the Atlantic. We crossed it with as carefully as possible, while trying not to lose too much time.
- The South Atlantic anticyclone (also called St. Helena High) was troublesome, spreading itself well south (40 S). We had to find a ploy to avoid taking a big, costly path around it.
We did the following things:
- The cold front dissipated: it caused more work in the very short term. We pored over the satellite images, the comments (rare in this area) and the scatterometer data downloaded from the meteorological satellites.
- We had to find a depression that was going to propel us towards the South Atlantic by avoiding the anticyclone: it was a dynamic problem in the medium-term. If you position yourself at the front of a front: it’s jackpot until longitude of Cape Town. But if we missed: we would be left doing a grand tour of the South Atlantic.
So, we played with simulations of the movement of the depression and the predictions of the performance of the boat, to see if we could manage to jump on the train or not. We made lots of nice drawings, and there were tonnes of conversations with the boat. We weighed it up, we simulated. Every new piece of weather information brought lots of new interpretations.
We needed the reflexes of the surfer again: we positioned ourselves at the front of the front and flew whilst trying to use the curvature of the waves:
And it worked: Spindrift 2 reached the entrance to the Indian Ocean in record time, driven all the way by the cold front that was beginning to drop off.
The Indian Ocean: the troublesome ridge of high pressure.
It was time to change systems in order to cross the Indian Ocean. At first, it was a wild ride with a depression that had come from Madagascar to visit the Furious Fifties.
Spindrift was doing well only to be confronted by a confounding puzzle: modern boats go too fast for the Southern Ocean. Which needs explaining.
In the Southern Ocean, depressions move roughly from west to east at about 25kts, in a constant circle. They are separated by windless ridges of high pressure.
In times gone by, these weather systems overtook boats, which could benefit from them for some time before finding themselves left behind and waiting for the next one.
Modern multihulls overtake the depressions and bang into the connecting areas formed by windless ridges of high pressure.
It was a paradoxical situation: we used the boat at full potential for a day before crashing into the back of the windless ridge to the east of depression. We stopped, the depression caught up, the wind returned and we moved on again.
There was no point in pushing etc ...We agreed on that, but still found it frustrating to cross the whole Indian Ocean in “accordion mode”.
The Pacific: anticyclone or ice
The ridge of high pressure finally let Spindrift 2 go, and we approached New Zealand by working with some local depressions. We got ready for the crossing of the Great Ocean, a highlight of any voyage around the world.
The Pacific posed a particular problem this year. He had decided to temporarily deserve his name and organised a large anticyclone between 30 S and 60 S. It was not a nice present: because in order go round it you would have to venture into areas populated by drift ice and icebergs, which turn the road into a fool’s lottery.
The choice: The calms or the ice. After much hesitation, many conversations with a variety of people, and consulting information about the ice sent by the CLS, we tried to sneak through the anticyclone by taking advantage of a momentary gap.
The reward finally came on December 19 in the form of a very cold SW breeze: 25-30 knots, with snow squalls. The Southern Ocean as we had dreamed about it.
We even had the luxury, on December 20, of cleverly catching a small secondary depression that propelled Spindrift 2 to Cape Horn ahead of record pace.
The South Atlantic: long...
The rounding of Cape Horn on December 22 marked the return to civilisation and also the return to aggressive strategies related to highly variable weather in the south-west Atlantic.
The South Atlantic anticyclone was still going strong, and the basic idea was to use the southern lows to climb as quickly as possible to 40 S, then slip between the anticyclone and the Brazilian coast, where there is always something happening: everything was dependent on very tight timing.
The plan was going well until a problem with the mast, on December 23, forced them to spend time on some delicate repairs, that were handled brilliantly by the crew. But strategically speaking, the result was less thrilling: we lost the strong SW wind which was taking us to off Buenos Aires and had to now suffer the insults of thundery depressions and migratory anticyclones, which would decide a fate that was no longer in our hands.
An upwind tack lasting nearly 1,000 miles in 25-30 knot winds and big seas off Brazil gave us a different take on the country of Samba. The South Atlantic trade winds from the south-east put everyone in a good mood before the new year. Then, the Doldrums had the happy idea of being discreet and hardly slowed the boat.
The North Atlantic: the anticyclone, again...
As always in racing, “the first step is the hardest, but it’s the last one that counts." From north of 20 S we mulled over the long-term forecasts and simulations to test the mood of the North Atlantic in early 2016. The result was not brilliant: the anticyclone was solid, too solid. It had spread itself out over the entire width of the ocean. We had just started to hope that an aggressive cold front would dig a hole, which we could slip through.
But that hope was quickly disappointed. The stubborn anticyclone has postponed us until the next record attempt. It only remains to bring the boat and crew home in good shape through the vigorous Atlantic depressions.
All the same, it has been a beautiful voyage.
Weather forecast by Jean-Yves Bernot
For January 4: Laboriously working around the Azores High.
From January 5: A brutal change of scenery. Spindrift 2 will be in an area of active Atlantic depressions north of 40° N. The conditions will be comparable to the Southern Ocean and are expected to last until at least January 10.
From January 6 to 8: A south-westerly wind of 30-35 knots, 40 knots in places. Rough seas, with a westerly swell of 6-7 metres.
The finish in Brittany will need to be handled carefully...
Position at 7:00 GMT
28° 34' 22" N and 49° 37' 28" W
656 behind the record holder Banque Populaire V
Distance covered from the start: 25,978 nM
Distance traveled over 24 hours: 443 nM
Average speed over 24 hours : 18.5 Knts
Actual speed: 17.5 Knts
Waves: 2 meters
Vent : South-East of 11.5 Knts
0 reef, gennaker