A lot has happened since our last blog and several of our planned blog topics have slipped astern given yesterday's events. As you know, Shearwater has withdrawn from the TransAtlantic Race 2015. We made the decision with heavy heart but, given the options and resources available, we felt it appropriate.
Monday morning, we were set to clear the eastern ice limit mark and set our great circle route for The Lizard. Solution and Siren are nearby on AIS doing the same thing. Around noon Dan, our captain, called the crew to discuss the latest weather forecast. The winds and seas, which had been steadily building all day, were expected to get worse. We decided to head east to try to skirt the worst of the weather. I don't know if our plan worked - our weather was bad enough - winds quickly built to 40+ knots and seas increased appreciably (we recorded 47 knots and believe it got worse - we were just too busy to check) - this was the big brother to Friday's weather.
Imagine - Moments of terror on the foredeck which is wet, slippery and frequently awash by breaking waves. Winds drown out conversations, driven seawater smacks your eyes and mouth, drizzles down your neck. If your foulies are working, you stay dry enough yet the water hitting them and the wind send a chill regardless. The deck rises and falls, moves left and right, all without pattern or discernable reason. You think: safety harness, tether, brace feet, slippery hand holds, don't slip under the life lines. The difficulty of rescue under these conditions is in the front of your mind. Still, there's a job to do - if it's not done & done correctly, people will get hurt. So you swap out a worn staysail sheet, tie down a jib, drop and tie off the main and raise the storm tri-sail.
We hove to and spent a night in relative comfort though not worry free (repairing a failure topside to re-establish the status quo would be really dangerous). Thank you Noonmark VI for diverting and checking in on us - we hope you are doing well.
Yesterday's weather resulted in an uncontrolled gybe, preventer failure and broken traveller block. our biggest issue is that the mainsail tore along 15' of the leach above the second reef line. Assessing the situation this morning we determined that the mainsail repairs that we can make will likely not be durable enough to face the trip to England. We see that we have three choices:
1. Sail to England, likely using two headsails which would violate race rules requiring us to withdraw - 1,850 miles.
2. Return to Newport, a shorter trip but all of it bucking prevailing winds and current - 1,000 miles
3. Divert to the Azores, allows us to take advantage of prevailing winds and keeps Shearwater on the eastern Atlantic ready for summer cruising - 900 miles.
The third choice, while not by any means ideal, seems ther most prudent. So, after a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, we set sail for a new destination. We hope to continue to write these blogs but in the meantime we wish all of the racers fair weather & godspeed.