December 29, 2021
Atlantic Campaigns UpDATE FROM THE SAFETY OFFICER
*** SAFETY OFFICER UPDATE FROM FACEBOOK***
Five days have elapsed since the last update and things continue to change hour by hour, day by day.
The crews are now entering their 18th day at sea - possibly half way for some of the fastest crews but significantly only just over a quarter for the slowest. The speed of a crossing is not the critical factor - what really counts is to get across safely and as a rower they step off knowing that they did everything they could to have the crossing they wanted. That can be go as fast as possible or that can be get across in 60 days - both are equally important to the rowers themselves. As we look on and see the race take shape it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is racing and that those crossing in 60 days will have a very different experience to those crossing in 30. Each has its own challenges. Speaking with some crews it is very important to focus on what they can control and let the other things go. The weather is what it is, that other crew will do what they do. You, as a rower just focus on being the best you can be and enjoy the experience - even if that is a tough, gruelling experience at times. This year is unusual though and those who are racing are giving us quite a spectacle. with constant jostling for position and ETAs showing four or five crews arriving within hours of each other on some days. It is not just the first boat in or the first in any class but there are also lots of private races between crews which only become apparent when speaking to the crews themselves. There are even some crews racing others who don't realise that they are the target to beat. Crews are really adapting to life at sea by this stage and the relatively benign conditions to date have allowed the fleet to progress without any significant issues so far...though it is only when they step ashore that we can relax. To date just over 600 calls and messages made to the fleet.
The conditions since the last update have been dominated by a fairly consistent NE and ENE wind which has been well received but also a swell from the weather system to the north which has given beam seas at times and made life on board bumpy. Those crews electing to go north have had slower conditions and looking to the week ahead the whole fleet will notice the winds drop until 01 Jan before they build again. Once again the crews in the north will have lighter conditions and possibly light headwinds. All crews have had weather briefs from the Safety Team and some also have weather routers so in the next week we will see the tactics of the crews play out.
So far the issues facing the fleet have been relatively minor. A few overworked autotillers have struggled and in some cases the crews have been able to fix these, a power issue which has been resolved through careful power management, a stuck rudder due to a tiller arm, a wet water maker motor which the crew replaced from the mandatory spares kit, a lost oar and a water maker airlock which was resolved after a quick call to the Safety Team. The crews are well prepared, the equipment robust, the spares list extensive and there is always someone able to talk through problems at the end of a phone. It is great to see such resilience and preparation paying off.
The wildlife this year continues to be particularly special though a couple of crews are still to see anything. Reports and footage of whales, orca, dolphin, turtles, tuna and marlin continue on a daily basis and it is truly magical to see these creatures in their environment, so close that you don't just see them but at times hear and small them. Since the last report we have had something else quite unusual - three crews reporting storm petrels landing on their boats for much needed rest. In one case it landed before flying off, in another it landed and was dried of by the crew and sheltered as it warmed and recovered and for one crew they held the bird in their hands before it flew off. This adventure is demanding, tough, and gruelling. It can bring the toughest to tears and create self doubt before it builds you again but it also gives rare gifts and privileges such as the experience of the wildlife that they are sharing the ocean with. We have seen incredible footage of whales and photobombing dolphin but for the rowers the pictures only capture a very small part of that moment which will stay with them forever.
Morale across the fleet is high. Individuals have ups and downs and for some Christmas away from loved ones has been very hard and certainly a Christmas unlike any other but without fail the message is positive. There are frustrations about speed, aches and pains too but there is laughter, excitement and a sense of accomplishment out there. The next few days will be slower again before conditions improve and that will be frustrating for some as ETAs fluctuate but there is still a long way to go and one slow day will not mean a hugely different ETA. Experience shows that the second half of the race tends to be faster as crews are rowing more west after making south and in doing so are more likely to have faster conditions. The Safety Yacht Suntiki is now out amongst the fleet and will be visiting as many crews as possible and capturing images from them at sea so expect to see more from the ocean soon.