LAT 06 34.8N
LONG 127 23.5E
ETA 25 Jan 2012
COG 220 SOG 10
WEATHER Wind 067@18kts, Sea Moderate, Swell NE 2m, Cloud 4/8, Baro 1005.5
It is Friday the 13th and with the lack of fortune that we have been having so far this race we are trying to be super
cautious and not leave anything to chance, particularly after this mornings antics which I have described later in the blog.
Gold Coast Australia has been making good speed and direction down the Philippine coast towards the Celebs gate and is in a
close toss up with the other 3 leading yachts in the race DLD, GWA and QIN. Whilst the other yachts are approaching the
gate from the east, GCA is the only yacht in the fleet approaching from the north and this tactic has some very promising advantages and this morning we moved up to second place in the leader board.
I have worked on Merchant ships in this area and have previously noticed currents up to 4kts down the Philippine
coast which is one reason we are trying to get closer to the coast all the time. Whilst we are not experiencing 4kts, we
are experiencing 1-1.5kts of current pushing us south and the closer we get to the coast the strong the current become.
Whilst we ride the currents south, the other yachts are most likely pushing into the current while sailing similar wind angles on the other gybe.
Overnight the race committee sent notice to all competitors announcing that due to light winds and piracy the passage
between the Celebes gate and the Restart Gate in the Baltic Straight just north of Malaysia would be a “cruising passage”.
This means that the race timer stops as yachts cross the Celebes Gate and the timer will start again when racing resumes at
the restart gate to the north of Malaysia. If required we are allowed to use our engine to navigate the tricky waters full
of shoals and possible pirates and also get through the patches of light wind that are expected in the area in the week to
come. As much as I am a firm believer that a yacht race should be sailed only, I welcome this decision from the race
committee as without it we would possibly drifting around the Celebes sea for the next week waiting for the wind and I think
we have done enough drifting this race. The Cruising phase will be in Stealth Mode for security purposes so do not be
surprised if you can not see us on the tracker or AIS. The benefit of Stealth Mode is that if the people at home cant see us on the tracker or AIS, neither can the pirates.
Last night we saw the first of many Philippine Fishing boats. During the day their colourful paint patterns and interesting
construction delight the crew, and at night they have a similar appearance of bright lights of various colours that rarely
represent the correct navigation lights. The fishing mother ships and their dowels move randomly (as do we while we sail)
and so it makes collision avoidance strategies interesting to say the least, especially when we have a squall charging down
on us with a spinnaker up making our sail plan not very manoeuvrable. Still, the fishing boats have right of way so we are
ready to drop the spinnaker in an instant to alter course if required. Often the fishing boats are tied up to Fish
Aggravation Devices (FAD’s) which are 3m x 1m orange or rusty cylinders that float on the surface and are apparently
attached to the sea floor by a 2000m cable. The FAD’s are hard to see during the day when there is more than 1m of sea and
are unlit so are almost impossible to see at night. The FAD’s act as artificial reefs in more ways than one as not only do
they attract fish, but if you hit them in a sailing yacht at 10kts they have the possibility of doing lots of damage. So
far today we have seen 4 FAD’s, and we are keeping a close eye out for more as we sail down the Philippine coast.
This morning a sudden gust of wind caused a tragic blow for Gold Coast when the helmsman rounded up causing the yacht to
broach, snapping the spinnaker pole (again). The spinnaker pole is replaceable and we had the heavy weight spinnaker flying
again within the hour after doing some minor repairs. The most frustrating part about the round up is the injury that it
could have caused and also the loss of the spinnaker pole. This pole will need to be replaced in Singapore and consequently
we will be deducted points. Our damage bill for this race is unacceptably high despite all the preventative maintenance and
work we do on the yacht ourselves to keep the costs down. If we carry on loosing points like this for the remainder of the
race our overall podium position is very well threatened. I wish I knew the magic recipe for preventing such incidents that
does not involve me staying on deck 24/7 or leaving the spinnaker in the bag or sailing around with two reefs constantly in
the mainsail, but this is racing so that is not an option, crew are just going to have to be more cautious.
Considering the amount of time we fly the spinnaker, such incidents are rare, and now the spinnaker is up and we are
charging towards the gate without a worry. Lets keep fingers crossed no more drama for the next 24 hours and we can get
through Friday the 13th without any further incidents and get to the next gate safely with good speed.
Looking out at the sky at the moment it looks like the NW monsoon squalls are clearing and have hopefully had their way with
us this morning and will not disturb us until tomorrow, though there are still a few dark clouds looming that could give us
grief. Hopefully the sky will clear and I can relax for a few hours this afternoon as tonight will no doubt be quite hectic
and full of FAD’s, Fishing boats, and squalls. Without all these distractions, sailing along down wind at 150 TWA with the kite up is very pleasant and a fantastic way to travel!