It's been very active aboard today. This is purely down to one reason - clouds, and lots of them!
It's been hard watching the boys today as they have fought tooth and nail to gain whatever we could from what often appeared to be a very dire situation.
The clouds often left us in a complete void, without even a breath of wind, before suddenly sending down a squall with such speed that we often found ourselves a fair way off our optimal course. This has been similar in the various late night 'bar tale's' told of the Atlantic Doldrum belt of races past - so one could almost bet that this area is a fair bit more active in the cumulus department. It's funny how things were so much worse in times gone by.
Sail changes have been well into the double figures today. In fact we have probably changed sails more today than we did in the first 6 days of racing. There has been constant rain for the last 10 hours - not like the ever-present rain of the UK and Eire shores, but a low frequency, large drop rain which gets you wet but not in the same way as its fine drop brother does. The radar comes into play a lot in these conditions keeping track of the rain, of which there is plenty dotted around the screen. One good thing is that everyone managed to get a good fresh water shower, so the fuggy haze inside the boat has cleared and the nostrils get a break - for a day or so!
So with the clouds come big gains and losses. The sched is what we depend on every 3 hours, so it does hurt a little when you don't do so well on a few - like we haven't today, although we have had a slightly better one recently. It's all about your route through the cloud minefield, but often you just can't avoid them and have to accept that several miles away your competitor is having an easier time of it.... for now.
Today I managed to consult every member in private and start our little sweepstake on our arrival time at Cape Horn. Everyone gets one guess and the closest to the time wins the prize - which on this occasion is a bottle from each member. I even got Jules (Jules Salter) to play along as I feel that this far out (6000+) he won't have too much insight into the outcome. Navigators are usually banned from these bets in the same way that 'the best man' is excluded from the bet at the wedding on the length of his speech. I do feel that the navigator doesn't have quite the same advantage as the best man. All bets are off if we don't make it though and without sounding all doom and gloom this is still possible, as 30 days racing on a boat like this does take its toll on all the gear. So, it's still a big game of knowing when to push and when to ease off. After all we still have nearly 9000miles to the finish!