The end of the trade winds

Just as i write a big rain cloud on the horizon has brought a sudden
windshift, this is the first we encounter since leaving the unstable airs
around the equator and unfortunately it probably signals the end of the
stable band of the trade winds... We have 1350 miles to the finish which
will bring more variety and hard work.

Ahead of us a patch of really light airs which wont fill for another two
days and which has already caused us to slow down and forced Cessna onto
the opposite gybe.

Full speed ride towards Charleston

The past few days have finally brought the fast ride we had been promised
on the brochure, averaging over 10 knots in the right direction since
saturday afternoon. I believe we've been the fastest boat in the fleet for
a while, we caught up around 50 miles from Cessna's lead and extended by
about 15 on Phesheya since the beginning of the weekend.

During saturday night we had the big spinnaker up when we were caught by a
squall, we hanged on for dear life as the boat lept off the waves surfing
at nearly 20 knots in winds briefly gusting just over 30 knots, it was the
strongest squall we had been caught by this far so admittedly we were
unprepared to take down the spinnaker and we just rode it out in walls of
spray through the total darkness of the moonless night.

Thank you all for the birthday wishes!

I'm turning 34 today and this is definitely a birthday I will remember, my
first at sea in fact. During my first watch, when it was still night, i
started receiving the first birthday wishes, from Ella, from my brother,
from Roberto, my sailmaker, then my friend Enrico called me on the sat
phone early in the morning... Unfortunately i cant access facebook from
here but Ella sent through some of the many messages, there are loads
apparently. Thank you especially for those you sent directly to the boat
through my website at www.marconannini.com/sms, they really cheered me up.

Many thoughts are going through my head today, this has been a rather
special year.

From the roaring forties to the roaring V8's of Mustangs

We've been at sea just over a fortnight now and for the past few days
we've been sailing in a very regular band of the trade winds, with around
20 knots from our starboard side, the unexpected adverse current that we
had all experienced after the equator comes and goes and we still see no
sign of the favourable Guyana current that should be helping us along
the way... life aboard is very monotonous these days, revolving around
meals, naps and a few emails to family and friends interrupted by the
occasional need to trim the sails.

I guess if sailing around the world was as easy as the last few hundred
miles no one would bother, a donkey on tranquilizers could steer through
these waters but as usual the sea is not without its perils.

Sailing arond the world is like music to your ears

During the night we crossed the equator for a second time in six months,
technicalities and definitions apart i think i can now say I have sailed
around the world.

When i entered the race in April 2010, i probably didnt have a full grasp
of what i was setting out to do.

Financial Crisis Class40 for urgent sale in June - offers invited

Financial Crisis, currently holding second overall in the Global Ocean
Race is for sale or long term charter immediately after the end of the
race, due to finish in Les Sables D'Olonne around June 8th 2012.

With personal debts in the tens of thousands of pounds and currently
unemployed I must sell the boat ASAP! All meaningful offers considered for
a quick sale.

Second place throught the Celox scoring gate

The last few days have been, as predicted, a drag race towards the
north-east corner of Brasil, all tactical decision had been played out
earlier around the tricky corner near Rio de Janeiro where the wind tends
to be always on the nose and there is a nasty counter current. Since then
we've proceeded in a near perfect straight line to this next corner where
we'll all "turn left" towards Charleston. The Celox virtual scoring gate
is placed on this turning point which marks the beginning of the next
phase of the race and we're quite pleased to be crossing in second place
after the boys on Cessna who unfortunately have slipped from our reach and
are further ahead.

Finally into the trade winds

The struggle to reach the stable trade winds seems to have lasted an
eternity, the fleet progress has been very slow compared to the schedule
we had imagined when leaving Punta del Este and only Cessna at the front
has been keeping steady averages since reaching these steady winds a day
ahead of us.

So far and for several days we seemed to have fairly stable winds at night
then we'd get stopped during the day in flukey winds and sudden rain
showers caused presumably by the high temperatures and moist air becoming
unstable.

An inch at a time we fight to go north

The last two days have been far from easy, as we approached the
continental shelf off Cabo Frio near Rio de Janeiro we were met by the
nasty Brazilian south-flowing current. The deep current is
pushed to the surface and strengthens to a strong flow where the bottom of
the ocean goes from thousands of meters to under a hundred in the space of
few miles. The adverse flow reached nearly 2 knots just as the forecast
indicated light winds ahead.

We had a tough choice to make, either head inshore in shallow waters or
offshore in deep waters where the current would be less.

Easter at sea

We've been at sea nearly 6 days, half the world is on holiday for a long
Easter weekend, for us it's been more wind and waves as we sail north east
hoping to soon reach the trade winds.

Finally into the trade winds

The struggle to reach the stable trade winds seems to have lasted an
eternity, the fleet progress has been very slow compared to the schedule
we had imagined when leaving Punta del Este and only Cessna at the front
has been keeping steady averages since reaching these steady winds a day
ahead of us.

So far and for several days we seemed to have fairly stable winds at night
then we'd get stopped during the day in flukey winds and sudden rain
showers caused presumably by the high temperatures and moist air becoming
unstable. This morning for the first time the winds held strong after
sunrise and the sky is unmistakeably changed, little white fluffy clouds
are scattered regularly around instead of massive cumulus formations
typical of the unstable air masses of the last few days, see the photo for
an example.

We've emerged from this section of the race in second place squeezing a
lead of 60 miles over Phesheya, our gamble to go offshore at Cabo Frio
paid off eventually. I think we can now expect a drag race to the doldrums
where things could get shaken again. I may be wrong so we'll certainly
keep a watchful eye on the Dutch and the Southafrincans and try cover our
backs from a likely attack...

We had a few issues with the NKE electronics suddenly losing the boat
speed reading, then the compass reading, all misteriously working again by
simply powering off an on the system, luckily all the problems occurred
in light airs and not while sailing with the big spinnaker in strong winds
like during leg 3 when a similar failure caused the boat to go off in a
big gybe resulting in the big spinnaker to be torn in half (and
subsequently repaired in Punta del Este).

Another misterious source of worry came from the primary alternator we
rely on to charge the batteries, for 2 consecutive days it seemed to have
given up the ghost, only to wake up gingerly this morning and resume
service as if nothing had ever happened.

So far, save for a spinnaker sheet which I quite stupidly lost overboard
during a manouvre we havent really had any damage or serious problems,
let's hope things carry on like this to make Charleston a stress free and
cheap stopover. The budget has long ago been totally depleted. In Punta we
were being hosted in free accommodation by the Yacht Club Punta del Este
and for the other expenses i relied on the generosity of many readers who
have sent donations through www.marconannini.com/help which i'm very
grateful for. We're hoping to find a host family during our relatively
brief Charleston stopover and hopefully the price of food will be no where
near the inflated prices of Punta del Este where an espresso could cost
over 3 euros! For now we're getting in the swing of our freeze dried diet,
the last fresh item, an apple, was eaten yesterday.