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Paul Cayard's Whitbread Log
Leg 8: Baltimore to La Rochelle

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  All of us know that navigators sit in the nav station with their two computers running, one has a CD playing, the other has a good game of Solitaire.
Day 9 - May 11, 1998

1148 GMT
45° 43'N, 034° 28'W

Place: 3rd; distance ahead of Swedish Match (6th): 33 miles

Miles to La Rochelle: 1,377

From: Mark "Crusty" Christensen, Helmsman/Trimmer, EF Language

Life has finally slowed down. The wind speed dropped below 10 kts for the first time since we left the Chesapeake Bay. There is a small high bubble that has caught the fleet from the west and slowed the boats as it rolled over them. This has allowed the leaders to stretch out, but as the wind fills in from behind the fleet should compress again.

It is interesting to see how the navigators play this. Each, using weather information, have positioned their boats in a north-south line to take best advantage of the forecast breeze that will fill in after the high. All bets have been laid and the die are about to be rolled — the next few scheds will be interesting.

The nav station is the brain of an ocean-racing yacht; all decisions, based on forecast weather, are made here. It doesn't matter how fast your boat is, if you are not in the right weather system, there is no way you can win the race.

On EF Language, our nav station is situated under the mainsheet pod, where the mainsheet winch sits. On the aft face, just above the cockpit floor, is a small hatch. This hatch is the main avenue of communication between those on deck and the navigator, Mark Rudiger, or our skipper, Paul Cayard.

A conversation will start, "Rudi", followed by a long pause. "What?!" uttered in an annoyed tone.

Then will follow one of the usual questions that start when we've heard the same story about someone's ex girlfriend for the second time that watch and the hundredth time this Whitbread.

"What's the bearing to Verne?"
"Why has the wind shifted 5 degrees?"
"How fast did we go that last sched?"
"How far is Merit ahead, and did we gain?"
And of course his favourite, "How far to the finish?"

There will be some grunted comment about how he's got work to do and then the answer will follow.

Now, all of us know that navigators sit in the nav station with their two computers running, one has a CD playing, the other has a good game of Solitaire.

Well, not exactly. Each day there are weather faxes to collect and analyse. These each come from the countries surrounding the area you're sailing in and they never agree.

This leg we get maps from the US, Dutch, English and sometimes Canadian met services. Each has to be analysed, summarised, and then compared. Next, a real-time satellite picture is collected from our satellite receiver and compared with the maps. Out of this and the current wind speed and direction, and the course to the next way point, the course to be sailed that day is decided on.

Rudi then discusses this with Paul who biases the course by where the fleet is and how he wants to set up against them. This information is then passed to us on deck, who try our best to execute these instructions.

This is a lot simpler than what takes place because there are a lot of other tools that are used. The barometer is read, the sea and air temperatures taken, and sometimes Rudi looks out the hatch. The two computers are used to "route" the boat based on all this information and the historical boat speed at a given wind speed and angle, or "polars". Then, if there is time left after sleeping, eating and sail changes, I guess Rudi might play Solitaire.

This is repeated every time new information is received or something changes, which is most of the time on board EF Language.

I know I'll be kicked out of here soon, there is a sched coming. You get a different view on Whitbread sailing looking out the hatch instead of looking in.

Since I'm here I may as well look for myself — the router says 1,352 miles left to La Rochelle. We will gybe in 19 hrs and the wind will next be over 10 kts at 4.30 pm tomorrow afternoon. That wasn't so hard. I don't know why he doesn't answer our frequent questions more pleasantly.


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Leg 8 positions at 0600 GMT today:
  1. Toshiba
  2. Merit Cup
  3. EF Language (P. Cayard, skipper)
  4. Innovation Kvaerner
  5. EF Education
  6. Swedish Match
  7. BrunelSunergy
  8. Silk Cut
  9. Chessie Racing (J. Kostecki, skipper)
* Aggregate points total, including points scored for the earlier legs and points for the current leg according to present positions.

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