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Leg 8: on board reporter updates from Brian Carlin

Read the latest updates from our Volvo Ocean Race reporter Brian Carlin on board the team AkzoNobel yacht on the way from Brazil to the United States on Leg 8.

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Update: Sunday May 6 2200 UTC

TWA 136 TWS 16.3 Cog 004 Boatspeed 16.7 knots 
Sails: MH0, J2, J3, full main 

Light evening with speeds as low as 11knots as we get closer to the high pressure the wind becomes more unstable and mixing is less significant

Wind eventually settled down after sunset to predicted grib numbers of 15 knots 

I'm hoping by this time tomorrow night we are fast approaching the finish line - of course this is the Volvo Ocean Race anything can happen with timings - seems like we might be a little slower than anticipated.

The grib files read 25knts but we are only seeing close to 19knots, its also hurting now that our chances of catching the fleet diminish every sched. The last one wasnt good and seem like luck is running out. The guys and girls seem to be doing well with whats been throw at us and I'm sure a debrief is already underway for many of them.

We have circa 24 hours to run, we are hoping tonight isn't a rough as expected, winds, thankfully downwind, are expected to reach 35 knots, not fast and not pleasant at this upper end of comfort. It appears it will pass a couple of hours after dawn and then there's a trough to negotiate before a reach in towards Newport.

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Update: Saturday May 5 

48hrs and pending 

I asked Jules "What;'s the strategy", his reply was "None, gybe at Bermuda and head in for Newport"

Now that literally is what happens, we are currently sailing at a slow but pleasant speed of 16knots

The watch on deck, Luke, Brad, Emily and Justin are working the very last bit of boatspeed they can get out of this machine - I know Justin is ready for a good beer and a burger at this stage, I think the entire crew echo his sentiments -

Today was a dry (ish) day on deck and was just nice to be out in the sun without being hosed with salt water.

The mood on board is calm, i thought there might be stirrings of anxiousness but the mood is more cheerful than anything, a considerable amount of laughter to be had...

We should pass close to Bermuda tomorrow and Emily's only real concern the past 2 days is wether we will see it or not - she checks the routing daily to see what the distance says! well tomorrow Emily we will see if we make it close enough to home to wave "Hi"


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Update: Friday May 4 05.30 UTC 

TWS 18.3 TWD 78 COG 313 Boat speed 22.4

Good run last night, no changes just making more and more small gains per sched. All good on board.

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Update: Friday May 4 0030 UTC

The boat is making some serious time and distance in the right direction. Boat speeds have been up to 29 knots today, down to lows of 18. The six-hour runs are clocking up a whopping 120-130 nautical miles which must have us coming up to covering 1,000nm in 48hrs – this is fast sailing.

Jules has been watching closely the GFS and EC weather models and re-doing the routing to make sure the team has the best options available if an over taking possibility happens. Simeon comes up each sched a slightly bit happier as we so slowly reduce our earlier losses. 

It’s tough for the guys. They are working damn hard and they know they need a little luck. Everyone just quietly chips away each day, no mention of what could happen, just of what is happening, all hoping for an advance.

I'm already discussing showers, real beds and food with the crew, it must be coming towards the end, Lobster rolls are on the cards....

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Update: Thursday May 3 06:30 UTC

TWS 20.1 Cog 300 Boat 22.7 TWA 117

J0, J2, J3 and a full main! 

Great run last night, doing over 500 miles in 24 hours, hammer down, miles to leaders coming down and slowly making gains on the fleet, 

All good onboard. Simeon and Jules currently sitting at the navigation desk discussing potential tactics in two days time as we get lifted more and more right as we approach the high pressure. 

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Update: Wednesday May 2 21:00 UTC

The reality of getting stuck in the Doldrums longer than most of the fleet started to show its effects today. The team is confident and happy but they still, like most human beings, find it difficult to hide the truth and fact of what has just happened.

By all means there's a hint of frustration and perhaps anger as to why it went wrong, though I feel that it’s irrelevant now. They’re a solid group of people keeping their best foot forward and whose positivity strikes at the end of most statements.

Speaking with Jules late this evening, he thinks the leaders will stop gaining miles on us shortly as we are all now racing north westward to around 310 in similar wind. Jules tells me there are at least 5 days more of this high speed, flat-out sailing until opportunity comes knocking on the door again. We all eagerly await the turning point of this journey.

The outside is becoming dark now, below the inside begins to glow red, the dials on the clock read 23.89 SOG. My bunk feels like an uncontrollable hammock, peeing is almost a circus act! Well I’ll save you the visuals of the rest. It’s fast but not very comfy sailing.... I think back about that time I stayed in the Kerry Hotel beds in HK! Oh, the joys of a real bed! A shower would be nice too...

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Update: Tuesday May 1 06:30 UTC

Cog: 330 Sog 16.5 TWA 042 TWS: 18

Wind building all night, some sail changes, currently in a large cloud, heavy rain, Simeon at nav desk watching the radar. 
Expecting 20 knots of wind, reaching conditions all day. 

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Update: Monday April 30 18:30 UTC

We have met the Doldrums! 

We currently sit here at 18.30 UTC with a full main and J1 up in zero wind! 

Well I mean we are making about 1.4 knots through the water! Simon is standing on the back looking out to see where the breeze is going to be coming from, Jules moves between nav desk, radar screen and deck, increasingly frustrated as are the rest of the crew. 

The forecast was to 5-8knts but that's not living up to predictions, everyone on deck stares to the horizon, it's like waiting for a bus on a bank holiday!! It's just not arriving! 

The team is hoping that the 19:00 sched reveals a similar fortune for our competitors, not long to go! 

Another 30hrs maybe before we hit a solid north east trade-wind which puts us in the right direction and speed for Newport! 

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Update: Monday April 30 06:30 UTC 

COG: 333 TWD: 070  TWS: 10.4 knts  SOG: 13.8knots 

A restful night. The breeze stayed consistent. Eventually during the night it went from 140 TWD to 090 - 070 TWA allowing us to make some westing in our course. Eagerly waiting the 07:00 position report. 
Closing in on the Doldrums, Jules thinks it's going to an ok crossing. Hopefully the north east trades are here soon.

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Update: Sunday April 29 0600 UTC

Cog: 012 SOG 15.3 TWA 140

Gybing since 2200 UTC - basically a gybe every hour on average since then, maybe more. 

Very intense night

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Update: Saturday April 28

Tonight's update is going to be short and sweet, I'd like to write longer but like a role reversal again, it's the night time that it's the busiest.

Seems like we waited today for something to happen, but we literally had the same sail set up from sun up to sun down, straight line sailing again. Nothing to report only good banter among the crew.

It was after dark it began, the breeze filling in and we are setting up for anything up to 16 knots of wind and touching 20 knots boat speed in the good puffs... it's nice sailing again, however we negotiate this part of Brazil with caution. Do we follow and stay in touch with Brunel? Do we go closer to shore for more wind and find there's none? Do we dare gamble not trying that move? Do we head offshore in less tidal current but more wind? It's a double-edged sword right now, we are somewhere in the middle, threading the eye of a tricky needle!

Lets see what a night of tough decisions and most likely a night of gybing brings....

Brian

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Update: Friday April 27 0625 UTC

Cog: 025  TWS: 10.2 TWD: 087

Massive night fighting with rain squalls and Brunel fork sundown for about 7 hrs  No one really slept until about 5.30 UTC, squalls and cloud activity has kept the crew working extremely hard during the night. Wind settling down now and radar looks clear for the near future  Saw a Moon Rainbow form the first time last night! Didn't know such a thing existed! 

Brian 

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Update: Thursday April 26

Ground Hog Day - everyone is in good spirits, the teams is chipping away at small gains and pushing relentlessly on wards to a destination that seems to be like the door to Narnia!

Finally we did manage to get the 080/090 wind direction however it decided to bounce all day from 042 -085 never settling, it’s just gone sunset now and while today we had a relatively easy day with sail changes Simeon is expected "it’s going to be another like last night, plenty of cloud activity building already"

Last night I went down a little crook, not sure was it the freeze dried, the heat, the whatever but it knocked me off my feet for a good 12 hours, much needed OBR bunk time I hear you say :) Indeed.

Anyway back to what I can describe as normal, I was sitting in the afternoon shade with Martine and we were discussing how your brain can get into some deep thoughts while at sea. It’s very hard to describe to someone ashore this feeling. I guess it’s all that money payed on "Mindfulness" training, out here there’s zero distractions, just you and your thoughts! not always pleasant but what it does allow one to stop and assess the direction on where you are going, not in a race way but on a personal front.

I think most of you would struggle to find a time where you just switched off your brain and let it wander! most people can’t but out here you try stop it do that very thing... thoughts can be too real or too deep for most of us but it does make you appreciate even the smallest things in life. It’s a wonderful world we live in, we have wonderful people to share it with too....

Enjoy the calm for troubled waters is always on the horizon. Festering, boiling. Enjoy the Calm, Embrace.

Brian

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Update: Wednesday April 25

Another day, another upwind – it’s not that its unpleasant because the conditions have been good, it’s just upwind! I think the old school explorers got it right when they would only sail downwind to their destinations, wait for 6 months and sail back with the winds on their backs again.

I think if you were to ask any sailor upwind on these boats is not fun - these machines were designed for off the wind high speed VMG running or reaching - seems we will have to wait another 24hrs before we get a sniff of that -

In the meantime, the wind today was shifting faster than a gamblers hand at poker - the results of each tack on 10-40 degree shifts gave as many results as throwing coins at wall. In the end we made some miles, lost some miles, some miles just appeared, and others vanished - miles were never meant to be counted when you play a game of snakes and ladders because just like the game one hour you were on top, the next you were at the bottom. Of course the sailors love and hate this all at the same time - it motivates, it infuriates, positive results breeds positive attitudes and the team of AkzoNobel seems content to be back on form and chasing down the front pack.

The wind which managed to stay jumping between 11-15knots kept the crew busy - you see it’s a cross over between 2 sails, the Mast Head Zero (MH0) and the J1 - 11knots the J1 isn’t very good at getting the boat through the waves, the MH0 has the power - but this relies on doing a sail change - simple right! well no not exactly, it requires all the crew to be on deck, it requires the 3 people to move the stack of sails on deck and plug in the new MH0 sail, this requires other crew to move around the boat, this upsets the weight and balance of the boat, this results in loss of speed, this results in using energy, all valuable resource being lost in an effort to keep the average boats speed about 10.2knots - this all takes time, one sail up then the other down, this means folding the J1 - this requires 3 people, the rest of the crew now move about to clean up the ropes from the different sails, this is slow, this is not a fast maneuver for the boat - this is why you can gain miles and lose miles, time the change right you can gain the advantage, time it wrong, you slow the boat, make the crew tired and have no advantage - this is why so many of the crew sits in silence, pondering, humming and haaaing weather to peel to a new sail! there are consequences, this is not being lazy - you ask yourself is this juice worth the squeeze?

Today we drank our fair share of hand squeezed goodness and suffered a lot of concentrate.

Overall, we had a good day I think....

Bri

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Update: Tuesday April 24 06:00 UTC

TWS: 15.3 knots COG: 012 degrees Boat: 10.4 Knts

First part of the night was moonlit - nice for the OBR.

Seems like we are getting close to mainland Brazil again, plenty of shipping on AIS and ships calling the fleet of VO65's on VHF to know our intent of passing astern or infront. Thankful for the guys, the wind has stayed above the dreaded crossover with the J1 and MHO and we are gently steaming through the waves with the J1.

Everyone seems more rested than last night and all in good spirits onboard.

Long night, off to grab a couple of hours sleep before the sun rises.

Brian

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Update: Monday April 23

A light and pleasant start to Leg 8 from Itajai. It’s been one of the tamer starts to a leg which I believed was welcomed across the fleet, certainly on board TAN.

After the little inshore battle course, it was straight line sailing, COG at 100 easterly and the debate begins onboard, "how long on the MHO" Simeon says, Crew replies we look good for now - same angle, same speed say Justin. (Simeon then turns to and says, "20mins left of my watch, bet they will change their minds before then")

Of course, sailors are just indecisive, they are looking for the smallest gains and so the sail wardrobe is discussed, wind building, it’s time for J1 - All sailors up and off they settle into a drag race of miniature gains on the competition. This is all that's happened to be honest - it’s been a very pleasant start to this leg -

There are boats to the left and right of us, all pushing for gains - all slightly lifted to 085 COG with the wind increasing to 19 TWS, (03:00 UTC) All patiently waiting to swing North towards the north east of Brazil.

Who goes first? where and when is the time? (CFR-IMY)

Bri


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