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what to do?

John Curtis checks in with his latest Vendee observations. Check out his Sailing Around The World videos

I am a great believer in keeping things as simple as possible. In our modern information age this is not a simple thing to do. Even alone out at sea the Vendee Globe skippers are being bombarded with information. I hope for their sakes they are also experiencing that wonderful mind calming affect of being at sea. Its a rare and magical thing to have one’s mind clear of clutter. I recall day 4 of the 2011 Transpac Ocean Race aboard the Open 60 O CANADA, when I suddenly noticed that all the thought noise in my head had stopped. I was on deck between watches. It was morning and the sun had finally broken through the clouds. I had a camera in my hand because we were making a film about the race and I described the feeling to the camera while filming the water rush past the deck. It was magical. My thoughts were ordered and deliberate. There were no interruptions. Finishing a thought was easy and my perceptions felt clear and free of doubt. I would love to find that place again. here is a link to the film that should be available soon. www.sailingaroundtheworld.tv  You can watch the trailers for the 2 films about this adventure. They are called The California Campaign and The Transpac.

I’m sure many of the Vendee skippers are having their doubts about their ability to predict what will happen next with the weather but there is some simple logic that they should be trying to follow.

Essentially they have two ways to make progress. They can go for speed or try to sail the shortest route to the next way point. A way point is sometimes a mark, tip of a continent, an ice gate and sometimes an imaginary point that gets them to where they think they need to be at a certain point in the race. If you race small boats think of a way point like a mark of the race.

The thing that is most noticeable about these fast boats is the extent to which extra speed can compensate for sailing extra distance. This usually means that finding more wind is the primary concern and they will be willing to go surprisingly far out of their way to get to that stronger wind. Anyone who sails catamarans will know what I am talking about.

They also have to factor in points of sail. No one wants to sail a close hauled course in heavy weather and big seas. Reaching or running is much faster in big wind so they are aiming to be reaching or running in the big stuff.

When the wind is light, it is usually better to sail angles that are closer to the wind (close hauled or close reach). This is because the apparent wind is stronger in light winds if you are traveling in a direction that is close to being the opposite direction from the true wind. The True wind and boat wind add to create apparent wind. (its high school geometry at work in the real world and it is more elegant and wonderful than they ever taught us in school).

This changes when the wind reaches a velocity where the boat can generate more apparent wind on broader angles. in an Open 60 this is about 6-8 knots of true wind. In 6 knots of true wind sailing about 20 degrees off a close hauled course with the full main and a Code 0 (ginormous jib flown off the bow sprit) the boat will do about 10-12 knots depending on the sea state. 10-12 knots over the bottom in 6 knots of wind. Sounds like cheating mother nature and it feels like that to. Its awesome!  Read on.