FROM 1-23. Next landfall Tasmania

Oct 06, 2005 - 0915hrs UTC

0915hrs 06 Oct 2005 UTC 30’09”S 019’48”W Ref 419

DB: 116, 7970 gps 118 47/63 and just holding the breeze.

Now 06/1215 and I’ve been out there hand steering the assy for 3 hours – gorgeous sailing, averaging about 5.5 kts, sunshine, water 18 degrees. We’re down out of the Trades and back in the swirls where the two airmasses, warm in the north, cooler to the south, skirmish for dominance and send their successions of local changes rushing past us. We are trying to stay with a band of breeze that I think is maintained by two little highs, one in the north and one to the south west and we’re trying to get as far east and south as possible before the high to the SW develops, so that we can use the front of it to continue to move us, on the other tack, towards the barn door at Cape Town.

I’ve been developing this update as I sat up there daydreaming. First, another mind picture. Most of you will remember the Sydney Olympic logo – a brilliant conceptual design based, I think, on the swirling patterns created by the female gymnasts during their ribbon routines on the mat. The logo used a rainbow swirl that traced the outline of the Sydney Opera House and it is still around everywhere. I saw that pattern in the sky this morning – imagine two sets of radiating spokes, like two gigantic bicycle wheels suspended just over the horizon so that they overlap by more that their radius. Airbrush out the rims – we don’t need them. The top layer is the radiating pattern in the gossamer wispy dusting of ice crystals right out at the edge of the atmosphere and the lower layer, at an angle to the upper, is the pattern in the lower, thicker layer of striated cloud, probably again ice, but 10,000 feet at least lower. The two patterns interacted and for a blissful moment, there was that logo, right across the sky, but in grey and blue. Wooohooo! Now there’s fluffy cumulus blotting out most of the sky.

Secondly, hand steering – I’m a sailing dinosaur with no right to pontificate or prescribe, so take this at face value. I’ve never driven one of the big, modern, exotic planing hulls that today’s kids grow up with, but I did cut my teeth in planing dinghies. Berrimilla has a heavy, slow, displacement hull that only planes when the boat is tumbling down a wave front out of control – sort of, eh, Gordo?, and the rules may be quite different although the principle doesn’t change. Moving the rudder causes drag and costs speed in both types of hull. I’ve watched lots of people steering lots of different boats – some saw the helm from side to side and keep the sails filled and the boat on course, others seem to have that uncanny knack of anticipation and of ‘influencing’ the helm so that the sails stay filled and the boat maintains course with minimal movement of the rudder. I would be prepared to bet that the average speeds maintained by the ‘influencers’ are better than the lumberjacks. Anyway, that’s what I was playing at up there for three hours – anticipation and just thinking the boat through the water. It’s great fun and good practice. Obviously, different sets of conditions require modifications to the technique, but they don’t shift the principle.

Thirdly, Hilary checked out the flea for me. Seems I got the context right but not the detail. The book was ‘Annapurna, a woman’s place‘ by Arlene Blum and the author of the metaphor was Alison Chadwick, who died with Vera Watson out on the mountain. She spoke the words on the documentary, which we must have seen on TV because I can now remember the image of her face as she spoke, with the huge slope of the mountain in the background. I remember it particularly because, as a marathon runner, I try to fit distances into known spaces, if that makes sense – for instance, a kilometre is Farm Cove or Hickson Rd, 6k is the Corporate Cup course, 14k is the City to Surf and so on. It helps me to grind out the distance in increments when I’m running. I thought about that huge curve of Annapurna, perhaps 2 miles of it, and elevated to about 45 degrees and I fitted it mentally across Sydney Harbour from the Opera House to beyond Bradleys Head almost to Sow and Pigs, and I could see instantly what they had to achieve and why they looked like fleas on the elephant’s backside. Anyway, hats off to Alison and Vera and thanks for an enduring image. May they rest in peace up there.

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