When we began the race on Wednesday we set out into light southerly breeze. It doesn’t sound like much but it was hard rowing and we had to dig quite deep. The route for this crossing is designed to take in the trade winds and favourable currents so whilst a light southerly breeze sounds tame, the reality is that any headwind makes ocean rowing infinitely harder.
The lightning storm on the first night was quite severe, with forked lightning and some booming sounds to accompany it. The storm remained in front and behind us but miraculously never came directly overhead. In the highly unlikely event that we got directly underneath the storm we could be faced with power surges and potential electrical failures on board.
Weather routing is about navigation not only by direction but also by best weather conditions; it has been our key decision during this first week. We chose to head south east whilst most of the fleet stayed further North. The aim, for those Top Gun fans amongst you was that the northern crews would ‘hit the brakes’ whilst we would ‘fly right by’.
Last night bumpy and wet, we were side on to the waves, with lots of water crashing over us. Despite much of the sunshine you may have seen on TV we have been doing a lot of our rowing in our full waterproof oilskins (courtesy of our friends at Musto).
The bumpy weather has made routine more challenging. Cooking breakfast was difficult because we could not cook on deck. My experiment of holding the jet boil cooker between my toes while cooking boiling water is not to be repeated. Daily ablutions have been similarly challenging and with some of the recent waves crashing into the boat Jenks (Mark) is one of the crew to have had another narrow escape. His (full) poo bucket was smashed by a wave and narrowly avoided capsize back onto the deck!
We spoke to our weather router this morning and we are now heading in a more easterly direction which should mean less cold showers from now on. Crew morale has gone up by a factor of 10 as a result. The race tracker will show you progress directly toward Antigua, but the distances we are covering in practice are much greater. In the last 24 hours we did 56 miles and we anticipate beating that in the next 24.
Last night could have been miserable, rowing a 3 hour shift with waves soaking you every 2 minutes. But since I am rowing with Cayle all I need to do is look over my shoulder and that puts things straight back into perspective.