From The Deck of Prospector 18 October 2300Z
From The Deck of Prospector 18 October 2300Z
What the Wind Gods Give, the Wind Gods Take Away
We are just settling in for the night having just passed the volcanic
island of Stromboli off the north east corner of Sicily. The weather
today was beautiful and the scenery spectacular (check out Instagram
for some photos). Sailing was a bit of a mixed bag. The wind was up
and down, right, left and sideways. It shifted through all 360 degrees of
the compass, with speeds from 2-12 knots. Sometimes we looked like
heroes. At other times we were clearly goats.
We left the Straits of Messina in almost the same position in the fleet as
we entered it toward the back of the pack of 8 boats, 12 miles behind
our class leader and 6 or so miles behind the rest of the pack.
Rambler88 has begun to show her stuff and is legging out from the rest
of the fleet. Pressing up behind her is Momo, the 72 foot mini maxi.
Then comes our gang of 8.
But that summary of the beginning and end of our journey along Sicily’s
eastern shore and the toe of the boot of Italy obscures the real story of
the day. In between we had a stretch where the wind gods smiled on
us and we clawed our way to the front of our gang of 8. We worked
hard as we sailed passed the historic Sicilian coastal city of Syracuse to
get close up along the beach to take advantage of the land breeze
triggered by the night time cooling of Mt. Etna, which we now know
thanks to Tim Keyworth’s research is the highest peak in Europe south
of the Alps, and the sea breeze we expected to develop during the day
It got crazy. Our gang expanded and contracted on the course with
each zephyr. Last became first and first became last depending on
where and when the wind decided to touch down. At one point we
were on the outside of a group of three boats, with Varuna on the
inside and Mascalzone Latino in the middle. We were all ghosting along
side by side on the same tack within 150 feet of each other. After 30
minutes sailing along like this things changed in a sudden and
unpredictable way. Both we and Varuna, lost the wind and slowed
down, putting our bows down and heading to the left. Mascalzone, on
the inside, amazingly got a puff of wind and sped up and turned its bow
up to the right and pulled away from us. We sat and marveled, stewed
actually, that the wind got to the middle of the three boats in the line
and neither of the other two. As Mascalzone pulled away, we then had
to sit and watch as the wind found its way to Varuna and they too took
off on us.
As we licked our wounds and wondered why the wind gods had
abandoned us so harshly, we began to focus on our next challenge,
getting through the Straits of Messina. Well into the morning it looked
like we would get to the Straits in time to have a favorable current push
us through. As morning turned to afternoon and the wind got light any
hope of that disappeared. We know had to focus on getting through
the Straits in light air and foul current, or corrente in Italian. We and
our gang abandoned the beach in Sicily and headed across the Straits
for the beaches of Italy. Here again we were treated shabbily by the
wind gods as the boats in front of us and to our right benefited from
stronger winds at better angles. We thought about petitioning the jury
to waive the rules on outside assistance so we could order some pizza
to pick up as we sailed along the jetties of several towns to console
ourselves but thought better of it.
So that is the how we came to find ourselves in almost the same
position as we sailed away from Messina as we were in at Cap Passero.
We passed Stromboli after dark, disappointed that the rumors of its
peak glowing orange against the night sky were untrue. We are sailing
downwind to the west on a 124 mile leg to Capo St. Vito on the
northwest corner of Sicily. It promises to be a quiet night as we trundle
on down the track.
We are 5th in our class of 9 and 25th in our fleet of 111. We are happy
with our performance in conditions that don’t really suit our big girl.
The forecast ahead promises stronger winds and a more upwind work.
Prospector loves those conditions. We are not far out of second in our
class, with skill and luck we might pull off a podium finish in our IRC2
class. We might be able to top finish in the top 10 in the overall IRC
fleet which at the moment is being dominated by the smaller boats
who carried more wind with them to Sicily as the bigger boats were
first to get in to the lighter winds along the coast.