LAT 57 37.9N
LONG 000 58.0W
ETA 1800 UTC 12 JUL 12
WEATHER WIND 329@16kts, Sea Mod, Swell N 2m, Cloud 8/8, Baro 1008
Gold Coast Australia has sailed incredibly well over the past 24 hours throughout some beautiful but navigationally challenging waters from the north west coast of Scotland, across the top through the turbulent Pentland Furth into the north sea and down the east coast past the oil rigs and their numerous support craft.
Yesterday began with the wind moderating as we tacked our way up the shores of the Isle of Lewis. We had gained some miles on the other yachts over night and we were trying to avoid the tide by staying close to shore. The yachts sailing further off shore gained a good wind shift, and for a while it looked like half the fleet were going to sail over the top of us. Gold Coast was forced to tack offshore into the stronger tide to get into the same wind shift, and once we managed this we were able to lay the Butt of Lewis in first place, gaining some miles as the other yachts got knocked at the last minutes and had to tack around the Butt.
From the Butt of Lewis we made some good miles to Cape Wrath and across the North Coast of Scotland further extending our lead and found ourselves approaching Pentland Furth two hours after the slack water as the tide began to ebb. Gold Coast reached towards the island of Stroma trying to stay in the eddie until the last minute, when we altered course to sail around the north of the island. As soon as we were out of the eddie we were faced with 7kts of tide against us, and making good only 1kt to the east over ground. Once clear of the overalls Gold Coast Australia hoisted our medium weight spinnaker, increasing our speed through the water to 11kts, and our speed over ground to 3kts to the east. We gradually pulled our way clear, and our speed over ground slowly increased to 7kts over the next few hours as we watched with baited breath to see what conditions Singapore and Visit Finland would face.
Gold Coast gradually pulled clear of the strongest tide as we sailed into the north sea and towards Denhelder and discovered the next obstacle and navigational challenge of dodging oil rigs and their support vessels.
The decision we are now faced with is to either follow the present wind to the east and sail clear of the tide or stick west of the rhumb line and follow the east coast of England where there is more tide and where we will be in a better position to gain advantage of the new wind.
I have been monitoring the other vessels tracks, particularly Visit Finland and Singapore to see if they alter course to the west hoping for some hints of local knowledge, but for now they seem to be glued to our track giving me some confidence in my decision to stick to the rhumb line which is the safest option when a one can not make up their mind.
Though there is great temptation to head east, Robin Knox Johnston warned against this Pandora’s box and promises that in previous races he has seen other yachts head east to follow the wind but have found difficulty when trying to return to the west. Robins parting words were he has won all his races around Britain and Ireland by staying to the English coast, which defiantly pulls some weight in our decision process as he has been sailing these waters for more years than any of our crew combined.