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back to basics

Team 11th Hour battles satellite communications issues, giving them a chance to think about how important computers and satellites have become to sailors.  Follow their progress on the course with the online race tracker HERE, and check out their Facebook page or Website.  More from Hannah in today’s TJV report below, and go to the thread  for updates on the exciting Open 60 battle or the intensely dull two-boat MOD 70 race.

Once upon a time sailors went to sea with just a sextant and a barometer to guide them across the oceans (oh and of course some rum), but nowadays we have come to rely on complex computer programs that when fed with high resolution gribfiles of different wind models at different altitudes calculate your optimal route.  We are also spoiled with a wealth of satellite and infra red imagery, wave models and ocean current data that we can download in seconds via our sat comms systems on board.  We would usually get at least 4 grib files a day and on the approach to the equator would be monitoring satellite images to make aninformed decision on the best place to cross the ITCZ.  Unfortunately for us that vital sat comms system that feeds us and our computer with all that important decision making data has decided to go on strike for now, so our forecasting materials have been somewhat down graded.

Instead of having access to the pretty picture to the left, we have 1 sea area text forecast per day which covers an area hundreds of miles across, so no local detail, a barometer and a good old fashioned look at the sky. Right now we are dicing with the Azores high.  We spent most of yesterday getting Westing in and waiting for a bit of a shift to the East which came this evening, and we gybed on it.  Not knowing the exact shape and the detailed behavioral patterns of this high in the next few days is risky, what if we went too far west? What if the high starts moving south? Looking ahead where is the best place to cross the IITCZ right now?

So if you are staring at the tracker wondering why we are going the way we are, well it’s because right now all of you out there at home know more about our optimal route than we do.  We are sailing by feel, the old fashioned way.  Now all we are missing is the daily ration of rum.

November 18th, 2013

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