Estrella Damm, currently in seventh overall, is the only boat still caught in the light, fluky winds that characterize the Doldrums – skippers Guillermo Altadill and Jonathan McKee are gliding along at just 5 knots. Emotions are running high on the boat with both s a ilors feeling a mixture of elation and discouragement.
Yesterday morning the two sailors were granted one of the pleasures most appreciated in a round the world race: a shower of fresh water. On the mainland it seems hard to believe that something so mundane can be a real luxury, but in the middle of the Atlantic, after over two weeks at sea, the rain can as a true pleasure for the two skippers who stole a few moments for a much needed and appreciated shower.
Guillermo Altadill enthused, “Today I was able to wash my hair for the first time since we left Barcelona, and I was so excited and out of practice that I got shampoo in my eye. I couldn’t see anything, it was really stinging and I started yelling so much that Jonathan had to come and help me. But it really was a wonderful feeling!”
After an on board shower, the two sailors got b a ck to the business at hand: racing in the Barcelona World Race. Currently over 400 miles behind race leaders PRB, it is still not possible to assess when Estrella Damm will be through the Doldrums, a slow passage that has left Jonathan feeling discouraged and disillusioned. “It’s five knots. We’re just not getting [the wind] consistently. All last night there was basically no wind. It’s pretty unusual to be going so slowly for so long, even in the Doldrums. It just all seems a bit surreal to be honest. At the moment we’re just watching everyone else sail away and we’re just sitting here and there’s almost nothing we can do.
“We thought we were through it yesterday morning and then we thought we were through it again this morning but now it looks like we’re going to be stuck here even longer. There’s at least one more big Atlantic cloud ahead. Right now we’re going upwind in seven knots. We’re not through it yet. Normally you get a South East wind and the clouds take on a different character. You get normal trade wind clouds instead of these big thunder-head types, but we haven’t see that yet. Intellectually I know that we have to tough it out and sail the boat in the wind that we’ve got, but I’ve been telling myself that for days now and it’s really hard work trying to convince yourself that it will get better when you can see the fleet sail away.
“I like the double-handed concept but at the moment being two-up on the boat seems to be harder than sailing solo. I’m trying to convince myself that I can deal with [the conditions] somehow. I’m putting my energy into keeping myself going which means I have little energy to support Guillermo. It’s a tough situation for both of us.”
On board the Estrella Damm work remains intense. Despite sailing with milder wind s over the past three days, McKee and Altadill have been hand steering the IMOCA Open 60 non-stop in order to maximize performance. Guillermo continues, “We are still steering manually because with the continuous changes of wind we have to be very attentive to the rudder and adjusting the sails so not to lose even one metre more. Luckily as there is less wind it is actually easier and we feel a lot more rested.”
Stuck in the calm and navigating towards the next scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, Estrella Damm’s skippers have had some difficult moments in recent days with the loss of a sail and trouble with their wind instruments; however, the team is trying to see the bright side of things as Jonathan McKee explains. “Guillermo made a great breakfast this morning with scrambled egg mix, chorizo, garlic, olive oil and probably some other stuff. We saw another whale, this one about 10 meters long. We sailed right by i t. That makes three so far this trip!”
POSITION REPORTS AT 14:00 GMT
1. PRB – Vincent Riou / Sebastien JOSSE – 0.0
2. PAPREC-VIRBAC 2 – Jean Pierre DICK / Damian FOXALL +38
3. VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT – Roland JOURDAIN / Jean Luc NELIAS +173
4. DELTA DORE – Jérémie BEYOU / Sidney GAVIGNET +256
5. HUGO BOSS – Alex THOMSON / Andrew CAPE +278
6. TEMENOS 2 Dominique Wavre / Michele PARET +294
7. MUTUA MADRILENA – Javier SANSO / Pachi RIVERO +295
8. ESTRELLA DAMM – Guillermo ALTADILL / Jonathan MCKEE – 429
9. EDUCACION SIN FRONTERAS – Servane ESCOFFIER / Albert BARGUES – +619
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