Normandy Channel – BD Update – Day 2

Hello from the English Channel,

I can say without a lot of worry that this is extremely frustrating. Here we sit with no wind and in about last place. The conditions are either 3 knots of current going east – or now it’s going west, making almost no progress in the direction of the Ile de Wight. At this point, we cannot help but ask, “How did we get here?”

Bodcacious Dream at the start of the Normandy Channel Race

The race started in 10 knots of wind, and we did a small triangle before setting out to the first island we had to round. It was upwind and going pretty well, 5th, until our boat speed took a small but noticeable drop while we were inshore of the competition, sailing lower and slower, we felt we had just sailed out of the wind line and were starting to be effected by the adverse current. We worked our way offshore across the back of most of the boats, fell to 13th, but still felt as though something was wrong. Finally, we decided to stick the boat into the wind and back down to see if something was on the keel and indeed there was a big glob of weeds – and so after some work, we were back up to speed.

As it was getting dark, we sailed back to shore to find that we’d gotten back into about 9th. At that point, we sailed just a bit too far offshore and into an incredibly bad current at the same time the wind started to get light. It took us over an hour (and probably the loss of 5 miles to the competition) before we were out of the worst of it. At that point though, the wind had dropped to under 7 knots. As we continued to go upwind, we could clearly see that our ability to stay with the few boats around us was being compromised.

A small lesson in sail selection: This boat’s intention, as most of you know, is to take Dave around the world next year in a mostly downwind fashion. On closed courses, such as this one, all points of sail are usually touched upon – reaching, downwind, upwind, etc. So far, since the start, we have gone upwind and in light conditions. In such conditions, a flatter sail is preferable – one that attaches to the tip of the bowsprit, which is very flat (think super sonic jet wing to minimize drag) so as to be able to sail close to the direction of the wind. We do not have one of these sails; ours is large and very full for more power (think C130 cargo plane, i.e., slow but powerful flight). Hence, our not so desirable position.

The frustration also comes in knowing we’re on a really fast boat, like a Porsche, but without the correct sails for what we’ve been doing for the last 24 hours (or in the Porsche’s case, sitting on snow.) We know things will change, but will it be too late to get back in touch with the crowd? With this light wind, the only way to get through the Solent (the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England) is to have an outgoing tide. We know the leaders are there now. We are praying that we can get there in 10 hours to have the tide help us through it also, but are worried that they’ll be over the horizon and completely out of touch by then.

In the face of it all, we are sailing and having fun with what we’ve got, but it’s difficult not to have all the same horses that the other boats have. As the trip continues, we’ll work on more ways to get Dave prepped for his big challenge.

- Matt (and Dave)

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