Mother Nature at her Worst … and Best

Posted on July 18, 2016 in Fight the Kraken, Great Pacific Race 2016, Moana Uli, Ocean Hearts, Row Aloha, Sons of the Pacific, Uniting Nations

Sunday, July 17th, 2016 – Race Day 43

WEATHER: CELIA has now passed all our crews and the crews are now coping with the unfavorable winds and big seas left in her wake.  The three boats to the east of the field have all been pushed north whilst they either wait on the parachute anchor for more favorable conditions or take on the ocean. Either way they’ve all been pushed north by the 20 kt southerly winds but as the wind backs to a more easterly direction and drops to a more friendly 15 – 20 kt the crews are making better progress. 

Ocean Hearts are struggling against a northerly wind of about 10-15kt. This is expected to drop off to virtually nothing as it gradually backs all the way to eventually come from the East again where it will start to fill in again giving Pat and Liz a good nudge towards the finish line.

Moana Uli are currently in a 12kt wind directly on the nose preventing them from being able to make forward progress. As with Ocean Hearts this is expected to drop off to nearer 15kt as it clocks around to the SE by Monday evening.

STORM WATCH: Darby should lose hurricane status in about 24 hours with additional weakening thereafter. In 72 hours or so, sea surface temperatures that Darby passes over will be higher but by that time the vertical wind shear, which has been low, is forecast to increase preventing restrengthening. Darby’s course sets her to pass south of the Hawai’ian islands and all our crews. Whilst they will feel the effects of Darby she should be nicer to deal with than Celia. 

With big winds and high seas comes little change for most of our rowers on the mileage leaderboard.  They have literally ridden out the storm, and have now come out the other side.  You may have noticed much lower than normal daily mileages on the YellowBrick Race Tracker.  There have even been some negative mileages made towards Hawaii as crews get pushed back by strong headwinds.  All of this will change soon but it must be beyond frustrating for the rowers.

To get a better understanding of what it’s like to be out there, we chatted with our Safety Officer Lia Ditton who has not only faced these, and worse, conditions on her Atlantic ocean row crossing, but has also faced cyclones at sea while on sailing vessels.

“The worst part about being in a storm on an ocean rowing boat is not knowing when the storm is going to end.  While the necessity of needing to stop and go on sea anchor can be a welcome rest, it is not always good rest. The boat is still being tossed around and inside the cabin with all the hatches shut, can be hot and sticky. Waves constantly rumble past the boat and the noise can be surprising – like being on a major highway when a juggernaut thunders by.”

Last night the crews didn’t really have a choice but to ride out the storm.  Being stuck inside a small sweaty cabin is one of the pivotal moments for our rowers where the mental challenge of the race far outweighs the physical.  We’re sure than the physical exhaustion of not resting for more than a couple of hours in the last few weeks would have temporarily overtaken the mental concern for at least the first portion of their time on the parachute anchor but after waking up and hearing those juggernaut’s thundering by the period of mental testing would have begun again.

From our armchairs it is virtually impossible to truly understand what the rowers are experiencing on the mighty Pacific.  Mother Nature has only given the rowers a taste of what she is capable of, and for that we are very thankful.  This quote from the notable French ocean rower Gérard d’Aboville seems rather appropriate.

“I did not conquer the Pacific, it let me go across.”

Thankfully the storm has passed relatively swiftly (although we know it could never be quick enough for our crews and their families).   As predicted earlier today we saw Row Aloha, Fight the Kraken and Sons of the Pacific stop their choreographed dance and all start once more to make forward progress towards the finish line.

Earlier today, Race Director Chris Martin had a call from Tim aboard Team Moana Uli Rowing.  We haven’t heard much from them recently and it turns out that this is because the team are working as hard as they can on the oars than answering our texted questions was a step too far.  This is perhaps the first indication that the team are working very hard indeed. With the light headwinds against them today they took this “opportunity” to go onto sea anchor for a bit.  This gave us the chance to get answers to some questions other crews have answered for us already.

In regard to what they have been wearing – foulies!  (officially called foul weather gear), virtually all the time.  It seems the weather they have experienced is somewhat different to other boats very close by.  Skipper Tim did recall with fondness a warm and still day when the boys decided to then follow the path of the Ocean Hearts ladies and tossed their clothing to the wind (actually left it in the cabin) and went “au natural” at the oars.  But they told us those days were long ago and conditions have not allowed this to happen again … yet.  Let’s all hope that they keep some item of clothing on hand for their arrival.

Regarding their favorite moments on board, the overwhelming answer was SUNSETS!  Whomever is lucky enough to have the shift at the oars when the sun is setting has the best shift of the day.  No matter what else might be happening regarding the weather, progress or what was for dinner.  They tell us the colors are indescribably beautiful.  Mother Nature at her best.

Least favorite moments unfortunately happen shortly afterwards when they are so tired that they fall asleep at the oars. Whether favorite or least favorite, there won’t be many of these moments left now as Moana Uli are predicted to arrive within a week.

Predicted Arrival Note:  With the passing of the remnants of storm system Celia, many of our crews have been spending time on sea anchor.  As a result, the recent VMG (Velocity Made Good) distance to finish is not a good indicator of their actual arrival date.  For today, our predicted arrival chart shows VMG from the start only.  When the teams pick up the oars again, the VMG Recent should get back on track.

PREDICTED ARRIVAL 07-16-16 @ 20:00 PST
CREW VMG RECENT VMG START
UN 14-Jul 14-Jul
OH 19-Jul 20-Jul
MU 22-Jul 23-Jul
SOTP on sea anchor 31-Jul
ALOHA on sea anchor 31-Jul
FTK on sea anchor 03-Aug

GREAT PACIFIC RACE STANDINGS as of 4:00 pm PDT
1 Uniting Nations: ROWING – FINISHED 39 Days 9 Hours 56 Minutes
2 Team Ocean Hearts: ROWING – 143 NM to finish, Rowed 2284 NM
3 Moana Uli: ROWING – 245 NM to finish, Rowed 2074 NM
4 Sons of the Pacific: ROWING – 523 NM to finish, Rowed 1873 NM
5 Row Aloha: ROWING – 527 NM to finish, Rowed 1889 NM
6 Fight the Kraken: ROWING – 622 NM to finish, Rowed 1785 NM
Endurance Limits: RETIRED – Rowed 241 NM
Endurance Limits USA: RETIRED – Rowed 207 NM