Just Off Africa


So, has anyone noticed this race is taking forever? Now granted we are not leading the pack but hell’s teeth we’re still within spitting distance of Africa! Where are the white fluffy clouds? Where is the constant 20kt tradewinds we were all expecting? Come on RORC flip the switch- it’s hot out here. Had I known it would be like this I would have lasso’d Maserati when the bowled past us at 25kts off Lanzarote and simply retired to the aft deck with a Martini for the rest of the race.
As it is with a crew of 14 we now find ourselves having to make decisions about food and how best to deploy it. This is not to say there is a problem- there isn’t- but sailing boats at sea are in a unique position of being in possession of a strictly finite number of resources to use up whether that is food, water(unless you have a watermaker) tools, spare parts, medical supplies moral etc,when it is gone , it is gone. There is no Seven Eleven or Home Depot out here to pop into so we have to be cautious to only use what we have in moderation.
As the skipper it is therefore incumbent on me to ensure that we arrive safely, physically and emotionally in one piece having consumed what we have at a rate that does not exceed the limitations of the supply. Whilst we have all number of communication devices on board and can summon help from surrounding ships, satellites and your good self dear reader at the press of a button I am not sure how well the call of ‘Mayday we have run out of sugar’ would go down and yet it could hit morale and therefore speed and the crew’s well being as squarely as blowing out the kite.
In this manner I have always found life at sea to be a microcosm of problems that affect our whole planet. Today’s quartermaster wants to make the best meal possible so he takes a few items from tomorrow’s food bags to win the applause of his diners- no great shakes. Tomorrow’s quartermaster takes stock of what is left from his bag and decides to take just a few bits from the next days supply just so it’s as tasty as yesterday’s grub and so on until suddenly on day 14 when we should have a few days food left-bang the cupboard is bare and we have a big problem. Having seen this pattern play out many times during a 20 year career at sea I have to use my good judgement to rein in each portion everyone eats now to make sure that the situation I see over the horizon does not transpire. Scale this up to a planetary level and the rate at which we are robbing tomorrow’s supply of resources should be of great concern.

Further to this on the boat if we make all the wrong decisions under the sun we can; in theory at least anticipate that we would break into the provisions in the liferaft or even get into the liferaft wholesale and start to use that rescue options or we could call over a ship and get supplies passed to us or a multitude of similar serious but possible avenues could be explored if life on board the boat was just too intolerable. We therefore have other options. Conversely, that I am aware of no lifeboat options, or external help options exist at a planetary level and so for a number of years I have kept in mind what I think is a 60’s phrase- ‘Lifeboat Earth’ to moderate my impact at a personal level on the environment. This phrase accurately transmits the scale of the issue we are dealing with globally- if we mess up our resources allocation- that’s it we’re screwed.We’re already in the lifeboat.

As you sit with your coffee, your air con and your comfy ikea decor choices this point may seem very far away and lofty. |But to me as I sit here with 7 bags of food and 500 liters of water to go and 175hrs showing left to the finish- it seems so much more pointed and real.

All well on Challenger. CSM