TR2019 Blogs from the Boats

Aegir Update - 'Bang in the Night'

july4 aegir clarke sBANG........

1:00 am this morning in the pitch black damp of the North Atlantic, as we plunge foward at 14 knots of boat speed  under spinaker.
Cold, wet and suddenly surprised.   The bow jumps up as the boat decelerates instantly.   I yell; "We hit something."  Another yells over the noise; "Is it the chute??".

In the prearranged signal to those below,  I repeatedly pound my fist on the deck next to the wheel as we all bellow  "Everyone on deck,  on deck, on deck, on deck...".

When inevitably asked why spend vacations racing across the North Atlantic, I give pretty much the same answer; it is an enormous challenge. I think some  people perceive  that as a macho response to man vs nature or some ancient  Poseidon complex. Not in the slightest. If asked further I explain that the challenges are multiple,  varied; dynamic and great fun.  Almost all the time.  Truly invigorating  time in a different environment from our day to day.

If you are reading this you probably already know these challenges; weather, navigation, boat performance,  crew dynamics, tactics, maneuvers, trim, preparation for the totally unexpected. Drilled into me for years was the notion that 90% of a successful  race happens before the starting line. And while history has proven that to be largely correct, the best prepared boat cannot change weather, the pounding of wind, seas and salt water on boats and people. Exhaustion and concentration or simple boat chafe consistently derail preparation. And when asked about crew and who fits best to create a fun experience in this environement the answer always the same--how they handle the surprise at 3 am in the dark. And the humor to laugh later, whatever was faced.

So last night's challenge in the dark was the strop connecting the tack of the sail to the loop that attaches the tack line on the bow sprit. As everyone rushed on deck, some only in boxers and boots, a torch shone on the A2 flying from the top of the mast like laundry flapping on a clothesline. The retreival line daragging in the water out of reach. It all worked out... spinnaker taken down, sent below to a massive packing job, tack strop replaced and by 1:30 am spinaker up and we were full speed.

Back to the main challenge of the high and low systems shoving each other like wrestlers as we race north around the high and boats behind catching us with the winds from the low they are riding.
Challenges, challenges..
Clarke Murphy

Happy July 4th from the North Atlantic

Aegir update - Chafe, a sailors worst nightmare

Chafe, a Sailor's worst Nightmare

I don't mean it in the way that you are all thinking of right now ... I am talking about rope chafe.
We sailed for a continuous 48 hours with our A4 (spinnaker) in the air and when the time came to peel to our favorite code 0 (reaching sail), we realised our halyard strop only had two strands left..... this could have been bad. Having a sail fall out from the sky is never a good thing, particularly at night.

We sent our bowman, Al Fraser to the top of the rig to investigate the reason for the chafing and whilst up there he made the most of it by taking a few holidays snaps (see attached).
We have started our own splicing school on board following this incident. Al Fraser has been teaching the Murphy girls the basics of whipping/splicing (apprentices ???) as well as making a new lock strop so we could be back to 100% and able to peel spinnakers. 

As I write this, we are sailing under A2 in 10-12 knots of wind and beautiful sunshine - a nice respite after all the cloud of the last few days.
Romain Mouchel
Aegir Captain


Day 4

Hi All,

Day 4 in the Transat Race on the mighty Wizard: 1000nm down with 2089nm left to the finish.

The Gulfstream played a big role for the first few days as we hooked into a nice warm eddy and managed to get up to 3.4 knots of assistance. The other benefit of the warm water is that the wind is well mixed (ie solid), whereas in the cold water north of the stream, the wind is poorly mixed and you never seem to get the breeze forecasted by the GRIB files. For these few days, we had ideal Volvo 70 weather and managed some good miles. However a large high pressure system in the Eastern Atlantic is blocking and slowing the normal west to east movement of the pressure systems. We were forced to sail a zig-zag course as we sailed over the top of a slow moving small High, while those behind us, like Ageir, have been able to sail straight as they are sitting behind the system.

We had a small hiccup last night as we sailed through a large cloud line (my bad) and ended up getting stuck for a while, when the clouds unloaded in the early hours of the morning. We managed to extricate ourselves after a few hours and normal progress was resumed.

As I write this we are just passing the SE tip of the Point Alpha Ice box and have a clear run at the Lizard Gate (a line we have to pass through on the SW end of the UK which is the traditional finish of transatlantic races gone by) some 1927nm away. Looks like some great sailing for the next three days as we head NE in good running reaching conditions. We then have to figure out how to tackle the large High pressure blocking our way into the English Channel.

A rather large 100 footer has just popped up on the AIS doing 3 knots faster than us in our rear view mirror. It has been great to beat them to Point Alpha but waterline length has finally caught up to us. In a 10 day race Scallywag owes us around 44 hours so we are fine on handicap with them so far!

Breeze is heading and slowly building and there are some showers heading our way. Interesting times and great to have some competition around.

Cheers for now.


Pata Negra - the corner awaits

After pushing North to get in more current yesterday against the wind, we eventually cracked sheets and reached off towards the southern ice gate point. The sky cleared and with no moon, the full glory of the Milky Way galaxy showed through. There are sooooo many starts it even looks like a glowing cloud when you see it offshore. As we're coming to the end of the Gulf stream currents, the water temperature is steadily dropping and back to mid layers on deck.

By the time I got up, the kite was up, the sea flat, sun shining and a few hours of boat maintenance was underway. Andy did a full rig inspection and we needed to fix the chaff cover on the main halard, Aladin fixed the Jib tack and those with the skills were making a stack of soft shackles (the younger ones!).

Plan currently is to get around this imaginary mark deep in the ocean and then head North to avoid an ever growing Azores High pressure. Our friends ahead seems to already have good breeze and we so want this. What's positive is the majority of the course ahead looks off the wind which will be good for our "sensitive" J2 and the general dynamics of this boat as it really likes it off the wind. It also means it will be much more comfortable below deck.

With the nasty sea state last night and the fridge door giving me a small flesh wound, we had Freeze Dried food last night.... Some love these meals, some don't, but they are amazing when conditions are not good. You serve directly from the bag, so apart from a few spoons, there is no washing up either. They also make a hot water bottle if you're cold whilst they rehydrate.

We're just about to have hot dog rolls with freshly cooked onions for lunch by Alice...Then tonight will be Lamb shank. Totally spoiled!

There is a "Lazy Bones" bean bag on board which is made by Scarlett's dad's business in Antigua. Its by far the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on and its made from recycled polystrene collected around the island and shreaded with a garden shreader... good for absolutely everyone! I wondered why many have been fighting over the berth with it in for the last few nights. I'm sold if he ever expands internationally!

Chris on Pata Negra (covered in sea salt and chilled overnight!)

Pata Negra - the black pig flies!

Last 24 hour were tough to fab... We were caught between the two weather systems in extremely light winds most of yesterday which did mean that Andy (with some helpers) fully wiped down the bilges of the boat whilst we gently sailed along at 5 knots in 7 knots of wind. The sea flattened except for the strong gulf stream currents that gave us quite a push along towards A3 (the southern most imaginary "Ice Mark" we had to sail south around). He ended up working a chunk of the night last

An excellent sunset, more Milky Way on the moonless night and then a stunning sunrise. The wind was very light all night but today it's been building from the south to currently 19kts allowing for excellent sailing conditions with the Code 0 at between 11 to 14 knots We've just gone around the "mark". Seems weird pushing yourself to windward, without anything in sight, to go around a mark that isn't physically there. Truely demonstrates the honesty of yacht racing.

Rob and Mark from Australia took us around this corner. Think Mark is getting used to depressions going around the other way, a different set of stars and a different set of boat terminology.. Rob is a Pom though. They sail together in Sydney where they work in the legal industry resolving late running construction projects. Not quite sure what their penalties are going to be if this project doesn't finish on time! So now crusing along 300 miles to the next icemark at 12 - 14knts boat speed.

We're pushing quite a bit of current of 3 knots. Something you expect in the Solent, not in the middle of the atlantic. Earlier today Andy & I did a full food audit. This is because there looks to be a high pressure system buiding from the Azores to the UK which will be a windless brick wall in our journey. Getting through this looks very challenging and out ETA could go out an extremely long way. A week is a long time in a forecast but it is very concerning. We're OK on water... just might be a bit thinner...(who's moaning!)

Just off to cook lunch though. A crew sails on it's stomach! Attached photos show how sunny it has been. We've been mobbed by hundreds of dophins and the odd whale... They don't seem as energitic as those in the UK... must be the relaxed pace of life they enjoy 1,000 miles away from land.

Chris on Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra Pre-Start Report

Pata Negra is pretty well ready for the race now after a few very busy days by the crew under the leadership of Andy Lis (Skipper).  Jens & Rob have been stars driving all around the town as we got all ready as there is always something/someone needs getting somewhere.  Although it was a busy day, a few of us were able to watch the fantastic flag raising / cannon from the New York Yacht Club at 8am (exactly) who are hosting this incredible race.

11am today we'll set off.... I'll send you all updates as we go, but to save distraction and the satellite costs, please don't reply.

Attached are photos of Pata Negra (sitting stern to on a NYYC mooring), the incredible club house at Newport and our table at the dinner last night.

Chris on Pata Negra

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