Cape to Rio 2020 Race Diary
21deg 09,2’ S 028deg 46,0’ W
As I write this we can see Islã Trinidade about 25 miles to the North. Gone are the trade wind blue skies and the wind is picking up. Yesterday we logged the second furthest distance for 24hrs and we are happy where we are for now. Yesterday was very fluky winds, up and down and then just as I passed up the evening popcorn a rain squall came through, another one this morning so a good washdown for the decks.
Just after noon today the spinnaker halyard block broke so Guga was up the mast again when another squall came through. Got him down just in time to get the spi down and headsail out. Guess we won’t see the spinnaker for a while now. We are all battened down above and below decks and reckon we will miss most of the bad weather. Really is exciting racing,anything can happen.
Winds have been varying a lot today. Every boat is now positioning himself for the low ahead. Strategies differ, and as a result, boats are spread through a wide area of the ocean.
The low now seems not that strong for the boats who choose to attack it through its northern part (us included). We have been preparing boat and crew for it, and hope that everyone can make it safely to Rio.
The question now is: what will happen next? Big changes in the wind are expected, and they can have a huge impact in the final position. Weather GRIBs are awaited, studied and debated. The finish line is approaching, and the stakes are building high.
Right now we are abeam of Trindade Island, only 30 miles away. Brazil very near!
22deg 15,8’ S 025deg 29,7’ W
It is hard to believe that there is such a big storm coming when you look outside. Beautiful blue sea and skies and we cruise along gracefully on starboard with the spinnaker and the wind just forward of the beam. Really great sailing.
Life on board is very happy, lots of fun and laughter almost all the time,even through the night and often includes a lot of singing, but not very good- haha Hans has written another good report which sums it up all nicely. I am busy prepping and thinking about what food to have when the bad weather arrives tomorrow afternoon. We are poised and ready.
Yesterday we started to see more clouds and more downpours (“pirajás” in Portuguese). Now we alternate light winds (around 10 knots) with sudden gusts of more than 20. But we kept the spinnaker up all the time. Sign of changes to come…
We have dedicated a lot of our time thinking about the weather system that we will face, and the best way to pass it. Need to balance trying to shortcut through the storm, picking a shorter route to the finish line, or sailing around the whole system and avoiding the strongest winds. The boat is well prepared and we have been checking and securing everything, and the storm sails are ready to be set in case of necessity. We believe to be well positioned, but we have been worried about some boats to the south, and hope they will face it well.
To mark the 1000 miles to the finish, we had guava with vanilla custard. Great! But our bacon is gone. Incredible effort has been made by Phil to keep us well fed and comfortable. With great success! We will all finish heavier than we started!
Day 11 Wednesday 22nd January
23deg 35,2’ S 022deg 15,1’ W
The last day has been very consistent with apparent wind on our starboard beam as we work our way a bit further North to avoid the worst of the storm ahead. This low forming off Cabo Frio is very unusual and they already have a name for it so we are hoping it moves South as predicted, the faster the better.
Following up on my comments yesterday, today I saw my first flying fish, we used to see large shoals of them which took to the air when scared off by the boat. I was also thinking about the boat I skippered in ‘73 which was a Nicholson 55 called Dabulamanzi. When we arrived in CT people would come down to stare at such a big yacht, today Saravah is just one foot shorter and no one takes any notice! Not only that we will probably take 3 or 4 days less.
Our Eco Brick system of stuffing all the garbage into our empty 5 liter water bottles works amazingly well and have no smelly garbage bags cluttering up the lazerette as we used to do. The only things that we throw overboard are punctured tin cans food waste and unmarked paper.
All very good on board and everyone still jovial.
With less than one week to the finish, the race is incredibly tight, with 3 boats fighting for the lead mile after mile, and 2 other close by, waiting for a passing opportunity. There is a big weather system between us and the finish line, and this chess table is changing with every new weather update. The position report from the other boats, released for us by the RC only at 16 GMT, is the most awaited time of the day. Temperature is rising, on the thermometer and on the crew. Pressure is building. In 48 hours we will need to decide where to cross the low. Critical decision!
Meanwhile life on board goes on. It’s incredible how easily we adapt to the routine of our shifts. Good food (thanks Phil) and good mood onboard. Weather has been incredibly nice on us for the past 5 days. Spinnaker up all the time, and now a tight reach with the boat heeled over.
This race has been amazing, and looks like it will keep like that until the end!
Day 10 Tuesday 21st January
24deg 59.8’ S 018deg 46.8’ W
I think I am a sailing dinosaur! I did this race 47 years ago in 1973 and now I heard I am the oldest person in this C2R, who would ever imagined that back then? Scary.
Quite a few differences today. Not seeing much sea life since we left SA coast and the tech side of course is hugely different, with amazing weather predictions every minute of the day. No use for my trusty sextant either.
The other big difference is the way we sail. Back then we used spinnaker poles and sailed very square but these days you sail the “angles” and there are no poles. This means you sail much faster keeping the pressure but not necessarily in exactly where you want to go. See Hans’ report today and you will see what I mean. I remember being upright and rolling a lot but now we are constantly heeled one way or the other which makes life in the galley a lot harder as well as sleeping.
Off now for my sea water bucket bath on the stern. Shampoo works well and we can rinse quickly with fresh water so pretty good.
We had an amazing donation yesterday to the Go Fund Me site from someone out of the blue – Thank you Lindsay, it makes what I am doing all that much better. Very generous!
During the dark hours we had light winds and an amazing starry night. Also incredible is the quantity of satellites that we can see near the sunset and sunrise.
Near dawn we sighted a navigation light straight ahead. At 9 GMT something fantastic happened: we passed SY Northern Light only 30m away, 17 days after they departed Cape Town! Such a huge Ocean sometimes becomes a small pond! We greeted each other without the need of a VHF. Their huge and beautiful white starred blue spinnaker was the theme of our pictures today.
Now the wind is picking up and we are charging full speed towards the Brazilian coast. It’s pedal to the metal again!
Those of you who think this is a straight line drag race without any strategy involved, this can’t be further from the truth. There is a huge low forming between us and the finish line. The best point to cross the system must be found keeping a delicate balance between sailing a longer course, avoiding the worst of it and preserving the equipment, or cutting the corner. But what happens after? The wind is supposed to die and change it’s direction completely around the clock. Who will get the new wind first? It’s a chess game out here, and we need to keep the pawns sailing fast. There is still a lot of race before the end!
Day 9 Monday 20th January
26deg 31.0’ S 015deg 33.3’ W
Last night I made feijoada for dinner which is the national dish of Brazil made with black beans. We have a lot of pre made food by Vespa company which was all loaded aboard when the boat left Rio. Must say it is really good and my job is to spice it up a bit although most of the crew done likely spicy food.
Busy making seawater bread for the third time which is very popular. Unfortunately we do not have refrigeration (broken) and we don’t have a water maker which makes life interesting. Tracked down the smell in one locker this morning which was a potato gone bad. Carrot skins have all turned black although insides OK, strange vegetables these days.
This is a great boat and very practical in most ways, especially the galley. She sails well and real easy to handle. However there are only 3 double bunks on board but we bought a couple of pine boards in CT to divide the aft bunks and that worked well. We have three short watches so people just grab a spot in the main saloon or on a spinnaker if the bunks are full. All good sailors and fun company. Lots of raucous laughter but I don’t understand most of it as it is all in Português.
Now we are back to straight line sailing, this time on starboard tack (we spent the first 6 days on port tack). Spinnaker up, 15 knots of wind on a broad reach, relatively smooth seas, blue skies: great sailing conditions! But as we are approaching Rio, temperature is going up, and we start to suffer during the day.
The maintenance list is small today, so we have more time to just enjoy sailing and the company of our friends onboard. Our South African crew member Phil declared the galley his territory and has been treating us like kings of the seas!
The less experienced helmsmen onboard already have accumulated so much time on the helm that now we have a full crew of very capable Able Seamen.
The boat is in great shape, and the crew even better!
Noon: 27 17 S. 012 14 W run 211 miles in 24 hrs
Our trusty navigator is doing a great job, not only with his weather predictions but also his daily reports which are better than mine! In view of this we will now publish both of them and my reports will give more personal stuff.
We are now in typical trade wind weather so yesterday I had a big cooking day, 13 hrs non stop in the galley and cooked two separate dinners as some of the others don’t like curry. Also took the opportunity to organize the stowage and found the source of the bad smell – 4 broken eggs!
One of the toilets (we have 2) got blocked again and Guga sent the mucky ball of paper up on deck to show crew the reason. They promptly threw it overboard not realizing that it included the impeller. Alain came to the rescue and made new one out of the lid of the stainless coffee pot.
A very impressive bit of work especially with our limited tools – not even a drill on board but luckily the lid already had a small hole for the handle. We used leftover curry from yesterday to test and all worked well. Back in business!
All is well
The race changed completely, from a drag race at beam reach to a dead downwind sail with plenty of jibes. The seas are now down to 2m and we have blue skies with ocasional cumulus clouds. The sea temperature went up to 28 degrees and outside temperature is also up, so life onboard is hotter.
Today the maintenance list was big: toilets, bilge pumps, spinnaker halyards, mainsail sheet, spinnaker repairs (we are using them all the time) and so on… Without a complete workshop onboard, the sailor has to work with whatever material and tools reach his hands. So today we used Lavoisier rule and a coffee maker lid was transformed into a macerator impeller.
We have just passed the halfway sign, and today we shall be overtaking the last boat of the first start. It hasn’t been easy sailing, as our sails have a very narrow range of angles that demand constant adjustments. Our brave crew has been working around the clock and hasn’t got much sleep. You can notice they are tired, but the flow of histories and jokes is unstoppable. And we are having a great time, despite all the work and discomfort.
Day 7 Saturday 18th January
Noon: 27 15 S. 008 15W run 201 miles in 24 hrs
Another bouncy day. To keep our wind angle we were being forced South so eventually we gybed onto starboard in the evening. The wind was down a bit but still big lumpy seas. Just after midnight Zulu Girl came looming out of the darkness without any lights or AIS. We spoke on VHF and they passed about 100 meters behind us. Apparently they have an alternator problem so limited electricity but we are happy to be in front of them as they have to give us 15 minutes a day on handicap.
I was commenting on the fact that there are so few flying fish when one of the crew said he had thrown one away yesterday. I explained my views on this so this morning they were very happy to present me with another one which had landed on deck so it ended up in the frying pan for breakfast. Only one person was brave enough to try it.
Guga has again had to go up the rig which I don’t envy. It is now one week since we left CT and we have covered 1541 miles since the start.
Since writing yesterday I was thinking overnight about the crowd funding and what I should have done is run a sweepstake for our arrival time with a small entry fee and a prize for the one who gets closest . Any other suggestions? Contact us as suggested yesterday.
Washing machine mode was on for more than 30 hours, as we encountered 4-5 m waves and strong winds, and had to take care of our equipment to avoid breakages. Last night the wind finally subsided and this morning we restarted to press the pedal to the metal with our spinnaker up.
By 1am we crossed Zulu Girl just a few meters away, after almost 7 days sailing neck and neck! Amazing to have such tight competition! The position report from the other boats is the most awaited time of the day!
Now we expect to keep sailing dead downwind for the next few days.
27deg 38.0’ S 005deg 08.4’ W
After crossing the lighter winds of the high pressure, we were blessed with stronger winds… but they came really stronger… 40 knots all of a sudden! With our spinnaker up, we had help from God when he slacked our halyard as a warning, just in time for us to lower the chute at the last light of the day, avoiding the strong gusts that came right after. Incredible!
The night was dark and shaken with the wind averaging 30 knots and reaching 40 many times. Our skipper helmed the boat for 5 hours through the worst of the night. Now that the day is back, we can see the waves that reach 4 to 5 meters. Washing machine mode on! But we kept pressing the boat in a delicate balance between sailing fast and avoiding damage. Everything and everyone in great shape, despite the incessant movement that toss us from side to side.
Day 5 Thursday 16th January
Noon: 27 42 S. 00 42 W run 196 miles in 24 hrs
As I write this the wind is picking up again after a soft patch for the last 24hrs. Guga spent over an hour up the mast sorting halyard problems, typical of this race. We are expecting much stronger winds tonight and suddenly there is a big long swell from the SW, due no doubt to some big low way down South. We still have sunny warm weather typical of the Trades.
I baked my second lot of bread this morning which is very popular but the oven battles to cope with two loaves so will have to do one big one in future. Also had my second seawater bucket bath on the stern this morning which is very refreshing. Otherwise all on board are happy and healthy.
27deg 42,6’ S 000deg 41,9’ W
Yesterday an important tactical decision was made, and you may already be able to see it on the tracker but it’s result should appear only in 3 or 4 days. We had lighter winds for the past 24hs (as expected) but already found some good wind and are expecting a lot more for tonight. It’s a chess game out here, and we are only allowed to see the position of our competition once a day.
Lots of work onboard, not only sailing the boat as fast as possible, but also doing the maintenance that such a long sailing demands. We have been sailing for 5 days on port tack with the spinnaker up all the time, and have switched kites at least twice daily, sometimes 4 or 5 times!
Everything is working very well onboard, with the boat and the crew. Sailing conditions are really amazing. Blues skies almost all day long, and starry nights for most of the time. Everyone should try this race!
Day 4 Wednesday 15th January
Noon: 27 25 S. 002 58 E
Still on port gybe but the wind is much lighter so our speed is down and we only did 213 miles for the day = 8.9 knots. Nevertheless we are happy with our strategy and the forecast has been on the mark. We are hoping we have more wind than those further South and closer to the high pressure system. By tomorrow we will have crossed the Greenwich Meridian and be in the Western Hemisphere.
Our fridge is still not working so I have my hands full trying to salvage the fresh veg and cold meats, cheese etc. It is now quite hot and getting hotter but we are not bouncing around as much.
All is good on board, my health is great and no other problems.
Day 3 Tuesday 14th January
27 59S 6 55E – Day Run 223 miles
Having problems with comms, so sending via SMS.
All good on board and we are in a good place so everyone is very excited (see tracker on cape2rio2020.com)
Garbage is always a problem on board and we have a unique way of taking care of plastic. Everything is cut up and stuffed into our empty 5 litre water jugs. It is amazing how much can be rammed in. We don’t have a watermaker so have 100’s of small water bottles which we are also cutting up.
We are also involved in a project to create ECO BRICKS (Check it out on Google) to an NGO in Brazil…although our 5 litre bottles will be too big …………..
Sorry we lost communication at this point….will post again if more comes
through but it sounds as if they are all very well and happy with their progress. The tracker this morning is showing them as doing incredible nautical mileage each day and being right up at the front with the leading mono-hulls. GO SARAVAH
Race Report Day 2 – 13th January.
On roused GMT position 29 16 S. 011 05 E. 245 miles in 24hrs.
Weather — Trade wind weather, wind due South 15 knots and sunny.
Everything is great and a very happy ship, especially when the German boat Haspa Hamburg crossed astern of us yesterday evening. She rates much higher than us and needs to beat us by a day and a half into Rio!
We are keeping pretty much the same apparent wind angle, which means às the wind gradually backs our course curves to port, exactly as predicted and typical for this race. We have been swapping back and forth between two spinnakers as the wind strength varies but boat speed is consistent between 10 and 13 knots. We are heeled to starboard and bouncing around which makes cooking a challenge but this boat has a really great galley that works well.
A lot of banter and laughter on board and my Português is coming back fast.
Cheers .- Phil
Race Report Day 1 – 12th January.
WOW! What a start. Absolutely fantastic weather with 15 knots of wind from the South West and lots of sunshine – could not have been better. We made a nice start on a short leg to the first Mark where we had set up for a gybe set with the spinnaker. unfortunately there was another boat inside of us blocking the way so it took a while but eventually we got a gap and up went the brand new green spinnaker. It was three miles to the next buoy off Milnerton and once around that, well placed, we set course for Rio on a close reach. Slowly the wind backed and by 5pm we were flying the kite again and doing 10 to 12 knots through the night. Really, sailing does not get better than this! I must thank everyone who made this possible for me, in particular my wife Anne (helped by Penny) and also the Race organizers.
You can track us via the Cape2rio website and I will send a daily report. Our navigator also sends a report to race HQ so presumably that will also be published on their website.
All is well on board and we are having a great time. Spread the word to friends and family and get them to visit our Gofundme website — We have some way to go reach our target so we need inspiration.
Cheers .- Phil
Pre Race Report Friday 10th January.
The big day finally is nearly here and the weather man says we should have a good breeze (20 knots from SW) with sunshine, could not be better! The start is at 14.00 hrs and I will be sending reports whenever possible.
The boat arrived from Brazil less than two weeks ago and they had major engine problems. As the mechanic started stripping it down it just got worse and worse until he finally said that we had to replace the whole engine! Luckily there was a very similar refurbished engine available and this was finally up and working just 3 days ago.
There will be 9 of us on board and I am the only non Brazilian. I have elected to do the cooking so have been running around, with a lot of help from Anne and Penny, doing the provisioning and stowing everything aboard. Pretty much done now and looking forward to getting clear of cell phones and internet.
And thanks to Boocks Signs & Graphics who provided the eye catching Marine Inspirations decal