Following a Dream – Halfway across the Pond

10 Jan

For the next few weeks this blog is going to be following a crew racing in the Cape to Rio Race. It’s not just any crew, it’s an extraordinary crew made up of non-white sailors that have come from impoverished backgrounds and are, as their slogan states, “Following a Dream.” It’s a wonderful story of self motivation, determination and hard work that got them to the start of one of the most iconic yacht races in the world. You can read the original story about them here. That particular blog took on a life of it’s own in South Africa and was shared around eventually making it all the way to the top of government who seemed surprised that the crew of The Ullman Challenge had taken upon themselves to get to the start of the race without looking for Government help and were not looking to be part of some kind of quota system.

Lorenzo “Nespresso” Yon
Today the Ullman Challenge reached the halfway mark on her voyage across The Pond, just over 1,700 miles from Cape Town, and the same distance from Rio.  It took approximately 8 days to reach this point, but the first few days were quite windy and fast.  The second half looks as if it will be a little slower, so 17 or 18 days looks like a realistic target for our passage time.

Today was also the first time that we felt as if we were properly in the trade winds, VMG running ahead of warm easterly winds.  For five consecutive hours this morning the wind was recorded as 15 knots easterly in the log book, and the following two hours were recorded as 16 knots, so not a lot of change there!  In reality the trade winds are dominated by cumulus clouds that bring small, but significant, shifts to the wind, necessitating a series of gybes during the day in order to maintain the optimum heading towards the west.  Occasionally  one of these clouds builds up to be bigger and darker than the others and as soon as they reach maturity they dump a load of rain and gusty winds back onto the surface of the sea.  These guys can be a real challenge as the crew on watch are often over confident, having had hours and hours of steady winds, they are suddenly faced with stronger, shifty winds and rain.  The 0.6 spinnaker that we have been using frequently for the past few days is only strong enough to be used in winds of 15 or 16 knots, so when one of the big rain squalls creeps up on us it is a mad scramble to get the sail down and replace it with the heavier 0.9 spinnaker for the 30 minutes or one hour that it takes for the squall to pass overhead.  Sometimes the squalls have a way of creeping up on one, and by the time we are ready to drop the light sail the breeze can be well into the 20 knot range, where it becomes a delicate operation to change the sails without causing damage.  Anyway, all went well today and we completed a series of good gybes and sail changes which have resulted in a satisfactory course and speed for the day.  The only small drama occurred when a fitting gave way on the spinnaker pole topping-lift, causing an unscheduled sail change while the pole was repaired.

In the stronger winds of today the bigger yacht, “Skimmer”, who was within sight of us yesterday, managed to creep ahead, but we maintained our 5th place on handicap after a day’s run of 193 miles.
Without another boat or ship to see the only other signs of life around here have been the Flying-fishes and a lone Petrel.  Although we are now close to the tropics, the Petrel (otherwise known as a Diesel Duck, though not in scientific circles), probably flew up from Tristan da Cunha, over 800 miles to the south of us.  At present the closest landmass is the island of St Helena, approximately 600 miles to the north-east, but so far we have not seen any of the tropical species of birds that one would expect from that island, or Ilha Trinidade, just under 1000 miles ahead of us.

…OK, where was I?  Just had to rush on deck again for another gybe, this time in darkness, but at least we have some quite effective moonlight now…

The picture accompanying today’s blog is of our youngest team member, Lorenzo “Nespresso” Yon, packing the 0.9 spinnaker after a sail change.  The Ullman Challenge has a remarkably democratic system of management and the official Cape to Rio Race entry form lists the skipper as “Andre Julius, Theo Yon and Others!”  Lorenzo is Theo’s younger brother, and is doing his first Transatlantic passage.  Lorenzo and Theo grew up in the fishing community in Hout Bay, near Cape Town.  Having recently finished high school Lorenzo spent some time working as a rigger at TS Rigging Solutions and now works with Theo at Hout Bay Yacht Club promoting sailing courses for local school kids, especially from the local fishing community that they grew up in.

As the youngest member of the crew Lorenzo has been given a variety of tasks, not least of which is the constant production of coffee for the crew on watch, hence the nickname “Nespresso”!  He is also the chief “sewer man”, working in the sweltering heat in the bowels of the boat to pack the sails just as quickly as the guys on deck are able to change them.  It is perhaps appropriate that the picture shows him wedged between a spinnaker and the kettle, the two items that occupy much of his day!  On deck he fulfills a variety of roles, controlling the runners or the main sheet during gybes, or assisting with winching other lines, as required.  He has also proven himself to be a very competent helmsman, so is a good all-round crew member and always eager to have a go at any task that comes his way.

You can follow the team through their Facebook page here

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


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