Banque Populaire V

Banque Populaire V

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Day 36

Sailing upwind on starboard tack in 18 knots of wind, full main and staysail up, it's bright sunshine, and that sun is pretty much directly overhead now.

We passed into the Tropics today, and there about 1200 miles to the equator, and 4500 total to the finish off Ushant Island. Next milestone is the Equator and we will be trying to break Loick's brother Bruno's record from Equator to Equator..

It's precision sailing now, with much fine trimming of the sails to get the last little bit of speed through the subtly and ever changing winds and waves.the helmsman is key, he is best placed to see the new wind arriving and can tell how the boat is balanced by the speed, heel angle, and rudder angle,

Very different to the Southern Ocean sailing, where the sails were very well eased, so there was less trimming and most of the control was then through the helmsman, who was not necessarily trying to always go as fast as possible, but to pick the right speed and angle to negotiate each wave safely..

Brian

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Day 35 - Rio

We are getting up the South Atlantic even faster than we hoped. We are past the first High Pressure to the West, and we went through a stationary front off Rio last night, and are now sailing around the final giant weather system until the doldrums - the St Helena high, placed to our East. This feeds the tradewinds that blow past both the Africa and Brasilean coasts..Currently we are receiving NE winds from the High, so we are sailing upwind on starboard tack, hoping to squeeze past the bulge of Brasil..

It's great sailing; a bright blue sea and sky, puffy white cumulus clouds, steady winds and crystal clear visibility - at least 50 miles, as we can clearly see the top of big clouds, whose bases are far over the horizon..

The wind speed is 17 knots and we have just changed from the Solent to the staysail, whilst keeping a full mainsail..we have also put a short tack in to port, to get further into the favorable wind bend around the High Pressure.

And recently, we have had encounters with humans, cetaceans and possibly aliens....

Firstly we saw a ship, our first visual indicator of other humans for 4 weeks, as we have not even seen the contrail of an aeroplane in that time..the ship was heading across our path, from South America towards South Africa..

Secondly, we saw a whale, possibly a Finback, but I need a book to check. It was heading on the opposite course to us, at about 5 knots speed. Fred, at the helm, saw it first, seeing it's puffs of breath shooting 2m into the air.it was swimming alone and its c30 ton bulk passed about 40m down our port side. It was fantastic to see such an amazing animal, but I do hope the whale realized that we were there too..whales and fast multihulls need to keep a healthy respect for each other, as we do both of us a serious injury if we collided.

And thirdly, there was the most bizarre light in the sky the night before last, Christmas Day night, it was like one of those searchlights outside a nightclub, shining up into the sky from the South..it went from the horizon vertically up to about 25/30 degrees, so not as high as those searchlights, but that same kind of narrow, white beam..
It was really odd, and it stayed there all night, so everyone saw it, and had a different opinion on what it might be. It did not spin round like the stars, it stayed vertical..The only thing that could be agreed upon, is that nobody, in all their miles at sea, had seen anything like it before..
Yvon, in his usual humorous way, suggested it was an alien landing staircase. Fred thought it might be a solar reflection effect off Antarctica, it looked something like a giant comet to me, but not spinning in the sky might put paid to my theory..

Part of the great charm of being at sea, is to view unusual things..


Brian

Day 34 Boxing Day

What a difference 2 days make..Christmas Eve we had snow on the deck, enough for a snowball fight across the cockpit. I remember taking my big drysuit gloves off for a few minutes to do a fiddly job on deck, and then having to warm my hands over the open flame of the stove for several more minutes..it was that cold - with the air temp of 3C, the wind speed and the 100% wetness, the heat loss was really fast..it was an archtypical Southern Ocean weather, big wind and waves, downwind blasting..
In contrast, today we are wearing shorts and T Shirts, and drying all our sleeping bags and foul weather gear out on the netting, and showering (bucketing to be more accurate) for the first time in nearly a month.. There is blazing sunshine and we are trickling downwind in 8 knots of wind far offshore of Brasil..
To get from one scenario to the other, we had a really fast Christmas Day, reaching with Solent and one reef on the outer reaches of the depression that took us past Cape Horn..we had big waves from behind that we surfed on, hitting 43 knots at times, in just 21knots of wind..it was fantastic sailing, very safe for the boat, as the waves were too spaced apart to nosedive into, and we had relatively small and bulletproof sails up..
Now we are getting round one high pressure to our West before we tackle the main high that is off to our NE. We have just gybed onto starboard around this first high.
The swells from that Southern Ocean low are behind us again after that gybe, so it's pretty smooth, and Florent is going up the mast for another rig check. Fingers crossed its all ok. We have done about 15,000 miles since his last check, in about this place..

I was looking at the wall chart that I have been marking our daily position on, and it looks like we have crossed our track from Day 8 to 9. So we have now completed a circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent, and of the Southern Ocean. In just 25 days! It's all been fast except for those 2 very pedestrian days in the Pacific Ocean.
The boat has just been brilliant, and the crew fantastic - it's been a dream run around the bottom of the planet. We had everything that you could want, big wind, big seas, squalls, icebergs, growlers, records tumbling, fog, cold, albatross, even some snow..the only thing missing, especially for the first timers, was a view of Cape Horn. On my part, I don't mind at all missing the Cape, it was still the perfect ride - on the world's fastest boat, and sailing in the deep south, like in those famous Whitbread/Volvo stories..

As it took us 8.5 days to get here, if we took the same time to get back to Ushant, we would be done in 43 days- if only it were so simple! It's going to take us much longer to return, with at least 2 days light airs around these high pressures, then it's upwind in the NE Tradewinds with a big loop to make around the Azores, so there are lots more miles than on the way down, and slower miles, so there is still all to play for, and we need to keep the boat in top shape..


Brian

Day 33 Christmas Day

Happy Christmas!

Just had a visit from Santa, who was dressed in a red cape and hat, gave out
Presents, and looked the spitting image of Xavier!

We all got two fine chocolates from
A Parisian Chocolatier, and an Opinel knife in custom Banque Pop blue with Trophée Jules Verne inscribed - just what I needed, perfect!

The sailing continues full pace and we did another big days run. Now we are reaching with one reef and Solent,

It
Really feels different today, sea temp to 15C,Less wind and sails,,albatross gone..

Now time for afternoon siesta!

Brian

Day 32 Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas everyone!

Hannah, Let me know if you want me to Skype you..

Day 32

Perhaps our last full day in the Southern Ocean, and we are getting the top of the range model - with all the trimmings..

Up to 43 knots of cold Southerly wind, big waves, water temp 5C, air temp 3C, surfing to 40knots speed, 3 reefs in the main, small gennaker, staysail, grey overcast skies, squalls.

So all the usual optional extras you would expect, but with the added bonus of snow showers - a Christmas Eve Special for early dawn Shoppers, only at Banque Populaire!

"At Banque Populaire we aim to match or exceed all other sailing experiences"

We are now half way between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and in late morning will gybe north and make some more quick miles to 40S. We are slingshotting around a depression to our SE, which is giving us these strong winds. The cold waters are courtesy of the Antarctic Convergence Zone, a line which shoots north where we are, and delineates the super cold Antarctic waters fringing the frozen continent from the rest of the Southern Ocean.after the gybe we will rapidly get into warmer waters..
I'm now wearing a hat, a warm balaclava and a goretex balaclava today on deck, with dry suit gloves..With the wind chill it's nippy!

Happy Xmas everyone from the Southern Ocean on Banque Pop!

Cape Horn

Just passed Cape Horn at dawn local time, though being over 100miles south of it, there was no chance to see tip of South America..

This is my 4th time around, and although it would have been great to see the land, I am just happy to be back in the Atlantic Ocean, with the boat in fine shape, and a good weather forecast for the next few days..

We had a celebration of a delicious and perfectly chilled bottle of Champagne Mumm, some chorizo sausage and our last two loaves of bread. A feast indeed..

We almost certainly now have the record for the widest rounding of the Cape by any racing yacht, to go with our likely furthest south for any racing multihull at 62S!

But of course, the serious, big one today, is that we on Banque Populaire have sailed faster from Europe to Cape Horn, rounding all the three 'Great Capes', than any vessel before..30 days and 22 hours..that is 1 day 6 hours ahead of Groupama3.

Now sailing East still, as we are not going to make the classic turn north at Cape Horn, but continue on this latitude to take advantage of the strong downwind conditions of a low pressure to our East. Once closer to the low, we can gybe and get a long way North in its good winds.

Currently we have 35 knots of wind and we are sailing with 2 reefs, small gennaker and staysail at 30 to 35 knots of speed, temp 6C..back to a normal day at the office in the Southern Ocean!

Normally rounding Cape Horn indicates a dramatic change in the weather - flatter seas, clearer skies, warmer waters, but for us no change for a couple of days. But they should be fast days, where we can put some miles in the bank over Groupama3, and that's what counts..

Going on deck now for four more hours of high speed surfing!



Brian

Day 30

The wind is slowly picking up now, up to 18-25 knots, and the mighty Banque Populaire is beginning to get into her stride again. Starting to see flashes of 35knots on the speedo as we sail downwind with one reef in the main, big gennaker and staysail..seas are still small, but we are getting ready for some heavy air downwind action in the near future.

One of the jobs is to change the trim of the boat - to move weight to the stern, so the bows do not plough into the waves that we are overtaking.. That meant making a human chain of 10 people inside the long, thin central hull to move about 600kg of food and equipment from the middle to the stern..next is moving the 2 gennakers we are not using to the back beam, behind the helmsman.

As the wind builds up towards Cape Horn we will be swoping gennakers from the big to the small, and putting in a second reef in the main. Then possibly going smaller than that closer to the Horn.

Looks like an arrival at the Horn tomorrow late morning..

Over the last few days we have been traveling over some of the most remote places on the planet. We have been over 1500 miles from any land at times, so no other human being except us 14 were likely to be in that enormous circle with a radius of 1500 miles - as any other vessels would be unlikely here.

Even the seabirds have been few in number here, ..the albatross have stayed away as there has not been enough wind and waves for them to soar on, and for many of the petrels we are too far from land.

However, today the we have had about 8 small petrels flying with us, with black head and tail, white body and the most graphic white and black camouflage style markings on the wings. They looked like little fighter jets, and fly like them too, pulling big G forces as they spin around the boat. Saw 3 of them in close formation, turning as one, like a jet display team, fantastic..

The thing that struck me as they flew with us for the whole 4 hour watch, is when do they eat? I have not seen any bird yet pick anything up out of the water, they seem to be using us purely for entertainment, and even if they are not, and there is a purpose to flying with us, we are being well entertained by them..

Brian

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Day 29 cont

This year we have been on a grand migration, like an Arctic Tern, on our maxi trimaran BP. One week after the summer solstice this June we were at 61N at the Shetland Islands, now at the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere we are at a symmetrical 61S...

The Arctic Tern travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year. It flies further than any other bird..

Feeling very lucky to be able to be able to do the same this particular year.

Brian

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 29

When we were storming across the Indian Ocean 10 days ago, 2000 miles ahead of the record,  we had dreamed of being at Cape Horn today, but the large detour around the ice zone, and then this roadblock of a  ridge have shattered that pleasant dream..

So back in reality, for the last 2 days we have been downwind sailing, trying to find a way through this ridge that is moving East slowly. In the middle of it there is no wind, so we have so nearly gotten through it several times, but the wind dies on us, the ridge moves on, and we are still left on the west side, the door slammed in our face...

Fortunately this ridge of no wind will finally start to migrate north tomorrow, with westerly winds coming in below it. So we have sailed far south, into the 'screaming' 60s latitudes, to be ready to go through when the door finally lets us past.

You have to be an optimist in this record breaking game, so there is always some good news...Todays good news is that there is currently no wind at the Horn or going up the S.Atlantic, so we are not missing out on a fantastic ride north. In fact, we are looking quite fortunate that a low is going to hold off forming, till our delayed arrival,  and then it should help us up to 40S in the Atlantic..

So we have lost loads of miles on Groupama3 lately, though we hope to be still ahead at Cape Horn. One could then imagine that cracks would show in the team, and people would get disheartened, but thats not the case at all. There is a lot of good humour on the boat, a lot of banter, joking and laughter, especially at the changes of watch, and that helps everyone to get over that pleasant dream of 29 days to the Horn..Loick is the prime joker, the most positive person you could hope to meet, and of course, that feeds Into the rest of the team.

So more sailing with our maximum sail area today - big gennaker, full main and staysail..the windspeed should be in the teens, and although the seastate has been quite bad on starboard gybe, heading straight into a Southerly swell, that swell seems to be getting smaller now, and we should be mainly on port gybe..

It's midnight here now local time, with quite low cloud, though clear visibility. Just wanted to test the light intensity, and you can read the headlines on a magazine easily, but just not quite the small print.
So no problem with looking ahead for ice from the helm with the naked eye, but according to the information we have, the ice is now just behind us..

Brian

Day 28

We are now sailing VMG downwind in 13 knots of wind with the big gennaker, full main and staysail. It's ironic that we have carried this big gennaker on the deck, right through the Atlantic Tradewinds, and the first time the wind is correct to hoist it, is at 58S, in the Southern Ocean, below the latitude of Cape Horn!

Unfortunately, we are traveling just behind a high pressure ridge, that is traveling eastwards at 15 knots. We have caught this ridge up during all the strong northerly winds we had before, but at present are having difficulty overtaking it and getting to the stronger Southerly winds on the other side..

Its pleasant sailing conditions.... for Greenland, with the sea and air temperature around 5C. True night never came, which is great, and the visibility is excellent, so we are not worried about hitting growlers tonight. The last 2 nights when we have been slightly north (darker nights) we have slowed down and continuously scanned ahead with radar, light intensifying camera and the Raymarine infrared camera.

We passed pretty close to one growler, so they are certainly out here..

Brian

Monday, 19 December 2011

Day 26

We are still sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean - has nobody mentioned, that the brochure clearly stated that this part of the world cruise, was supposed to be a downwind sleighride!
There is 25 to 30 knots of wind now, and a 'bumpy' seastate.  The boat is crashing over the waves at 22 knots. We have just changed from one reef and staysail, to two reefs and staysail, as the vespertine light faded for our short night.
Late this afternoon we passed about 4 miles to leeward of one iceberg, and saw ten growlers, between 5 and 1m high. The iceberg we saw from 12 miles out on the radar, (before we saw it visually), but the growlers did not show up at all well on radar.
Fortunately the water temp is 8 or 9C, so the growlers should not get too far from the mother berg before melting.
It's night now, so a careful lookout for us. Time to go on deck:.

Brian

Day 25

Since the encounter with the amazing ice display of The remnants of berg B15J we have been skirting the Northern edge of the known ice zone. Firstly in almost no wind, and now tacking upwind in 15 knots of wind.
Our watch was on deck through the entire night - at least the 4 hours of it that we have here, and we were paying close attention to the radar. We were looking at various echos on the radar, rain clouds, fog banks, waves, and distinguishing them from possible icebergs, when an echo on the screen suddenly appeared that was unmistakably Unmistakeably an iceberg, about the size of a large ship.,we tacked away towards the north, about 4 miles before it, but it was not quite light enough yet to see it visually..

If you are going to sail in the iceberg zone, this is the way to do it! In flat water, and sailing upwind, so the speed is not too high, and you can easily change direction and even stop and drift back in the direction you came in..Sailing downwind in strong breeze it would take several miles to get the gennaker furled. Though right now sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean feels a bit more like the BT Challenge than the trophee Jules Verne!

Am trying not to think at all about the miles we are losing to Groupama3, but that's why it's good to have had some miles in the bank, to be able to spend some of that lead to make the correct decisions to get to the finish first..

Day 25 and we have sailed further in that time than any other sailing boat. As a comparison, when I did the mini Transat in 2001, it took those 25 days to get to Salvador in Brasil. In the Vendee 2008, I had gotten to South of Cape Town, and in 2003 on Cheyenne's Round the world record we had just arrived south of Cape Leewin!

Ciao, am off to my bunk, cannot stay awake any longer!
Brian

Day 24

A good days run today, looks like nearly 700 miles.
Today started off with the usual grey mist, 30 knots of wind with 2 reefs and staysail, and during our watch, it turned into a glorious sunny day, with flat seas with a 3m swell from behind, the wind dropped to 25 knots and we could open the throttles again on the boat, putting up more sail and sailing a safe and consistent speed in the low to mid 30s..by the end of our watch we were sailing with full main and solent. It was great to steer the boat for speed and not in defensive mode,

In the afternoon we arrived at the corner of the iceberg area, where the remnants of B15J are scattered. B15J
Is the name of a massive berg that broke off the ice shelf about 3 years ago;. It was the size of Corsica, but it's now the size of Belle Isle, with lots of pieces ice around..

It was the most inrcredible sight, with huge table bergs and a numerous smaller bergs that had been eroded into little mountains. Plus lots of growlers..

I had seen bergs before nothing like this..we stayed on the north side of them, took photos and videos. Checked the radar settings and saw the bergs in our Raymarine infrared camera.

As night fell we are paralleling the zone of bergs, and have light winds.

After our great day yesterday of high speed and icy scenic attractions, we are now almost becalmed in the Southern Ocean at 52S.

Wind 2knots!

It is all expected, and we are going to have to be patient before the new NW wind arrives. We might well be going upwind again for a short while.
It is all a necessary part of avoiding that area of heavy ice, that was seen by satellite, and proved in our visual inspection yesterday..

Although we will be losing a lot of miles to Groupama 3 today, we can, in addition to all the sail manouvers required in light airs, use this weather to make checks on the boat.

We are going to check all 420 feet of the 3 hulls for any damage

Brian

Friday, 16 December 2011

Day 23

We have had over 40 knots of wind for about 15 hours, and it is now moderating to 35 knots. For a while we even furled up the storm job, and spent 3 hours just with the triple reefed mainsail, The problem that we were beam onto the seas and wind and it was hard to depower the boat so as keep the speed under control and yet have enough power Andre heel angle to stop the windward of the 3 hulls from slamming down into the seas.
Loick had a great 'old school technique to help this problem - OCR

Still reaching in strong breezes, now it's 32 knots of NW wind and we are sailing at 120TWA with 2 reefs and staysail.
Most of the day we had 40 knots plus, and for 3 hours was sailing with just the triple reefed main. Later we went back to the storm jib, and used Loick's 'old school' technique of over sheeting the mainsail to stop the windward hull slamming down onto the waves too violently. It was a very rough period and Banque Populaire coped with it brilliantly. We tried to make it as easy on the boat as possible,

We are sailing high to go round a big area of icebergs that are to our West. If we did sail straight we would save a lot of time, as by going North we are going to be sailing into an area of light winds.. But no choice, we know that there are a lot of bergs there, too dangerous.

Fortunately after the light winds, it looks good weather to Cape Horn, so we may catch up much of what we lost in sailing round the zone..

Brian

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Day 22

Easy miles today reaching in light winds at 57S. Big swell from behind helped keep our speed up, so even on this 'slow' day, we did over 500 miles..
Now we have the expected upwind section and we are upwind with one reef and the staysail in 21kn of wind. Good wind chill outside!
About to tack for 3 to 5 hours on starboard, then back to port tack.
Wind will then shift to the North and will increase to 40 knots for at least 12 hours.
That will be sporty on a trimaran..will be well reefed down..
Everyone fine on board and the boat in good shape.
South of NZ on Day 22!
Time to go on watch...

Beating now into a nasty sea, with 2 reefs and the staysail up. we spent our 4hour watch trying to keep our boatspeed under control.
Just in my bunk now, writing this on to my iPhone, but it's feels like I am in a WRC rally car, it's hard to hold on to the phone, let alone press the correct keys!
Let's see what conditions are like in 3 hours!

Now reaching in 40 knots of wind. 3 reefs and storm jib..speed around 30 knots. Limited visibility of about 100m due to the warm, moist air from the north blowing over the cold water. Its very bumpy down below, hard to sleep..The guys are lying down and getting some rest, but getting thrown around too much for any more than that. Have another 16 hours of this wind, so will look after the boat through the waves, as the main priority, and if we get tired enough we will sleep!

Just ahead is the 180 degree of longitude, the dateline. We are now on the opposite side of the world to where we started, and in reality more than half way around the world in terms of the sailing miles we have to cover..As coming back up the Atlantic we should be able to take a more direct route than on the way down..

Brian

Day 21

Great sailing today at 57S in the Southern Ocean, clear skies all day. 30 knots of wind in the first part of the day, which most places would be a reason to cancel racing, or not leave port to venture out. But for us now, after so many days of heavy air downwind, it was a just nice quiet break!

Then it got lighter still in the afternoon to 18 knots, so we increased our sail area to the medium gennaker and full main. It's now 15 knots and set to drop further in next 24 hours, with the breeze heading to give some upwind sailing and tacking to come. Then the following 24 hours will be heavy airs beam reaching followed by more usual downwind sailing. So a very mixed bag of conditions in prospect..

Going upwind at 57S is going to bring some impressive wind chill numbers! Water was at 2C a few hours ago and is now at 5C. We are at the Latitude of Aberdeen in Scotland and Juneau in Alaska.

Few if any sailing boats would ever come here. Round the world races now have mandatory ice gates, and so it's really only a Jules Verne attempt, that has no limits, that would come here. There are no islands to the South, we just passed 100 miles South of Maquarie Island, part of New Zealand, so no reason for a cruising boat to come here - we have the place to ourselves!
And it was spectacular here in our private sea last night - at sunset we had 7 big albatrosses following us, and one would circle the boat, passing meters in front of the bow, and just above the water..
The light was taking so long to fade after sunset, that I finally realized, it was not going to fade at all! At midnight local time the light was now in the South, over Antarctica. And by one am it was slightly in the East, so dawn was here. It was an amazingly clear night..
2 days ago we were at 43S, and we are now at 57S - the days character change so much in that distance. And 400 miles to our South, the sun would not have even set last night!

Brian

Day 20

It's been an exciting night on board Banque Populaire..We have been sailing just behind a cold front, on starboard gybe, and the cold polar air was packing some mean squalls. The swell was near the beam and was forecast to be 10m, but was probably 'just' 5/6m. In the first squall, we had a steady 50 knots of cold, dense air for several minutes, which was plenty with 2 reefs and the staysail, in the dark. Jean-Baptiste did a great job of keeping the boat in control..and we spent the rest of the night with a safer combination of 3 reefs and the bigger Solent jib, going through several more squalls.

In the morning we went to 2 reefs and the Solent, and although the squalls became a little weaker, we did go through one of 40 knots that saw our boatspeed top out at a rather too impressive 48knots!

Now the sky is clearer, the sun is shining and there are just occasional, smaller squalls. The swell is much longer and less steep, so we have now gone to the small gennaker and 2 reefs in the main..Wind 28-33k.

A slightly smoother ride, though still doing something as simple as getting a cup of water means bracing yourself against any possible angle of G Force, forward, back, left, right or up. It's impossible to predict what's coming next, when you are inside the boat. Like a climber you only move one limb at a time, the other 3 need to be firmly attached to something solid..

We have now done over 50% of our distance in the southern ocean, from where we entered the 40s to Cape Horn..the first part has been fantastically fast, almost exclusively downwind sailing, it's been a brilliant ride. I suspect the section to
the Horn, will not be as fast or straightforwardly downwind VMG sailing.

Here we go, on watch again, let's go!

Brian

Monday, 12 December 2011

Day 19

2 mins under 18 days to Australia! Juan just came on deck to say that we had passed Cape Leewin..

I had daydreamed before the trip about getting to Oz in 20 days, and how incredible that would be, but less than 18, just amazing, I never even considered it possible..

Again passed a major milestone whilst our watch has been on deck, Equator, Cape Agulhas, now Leewin.

Wind is up whilst this low passes below us. Wind 35 to 42 knots. 3 reefs in main now and Solent or staysail. Keeping our speed under control as there are some steep seas that we don't want to be nosediving into at 40 knots, and thereby straining the boat..still surfing to 35 at times..

Brian

Hi all

It's now 1615 in the afternoon boat time, and it's going to be dawn in 3 hours - we are certainly on the other side of the world now to Europe...

Pos at 43N. 119.5E
Wind 30k WNW
Speed 27 - 34kn
3 reefs, small gennaker + staysail

Today with winds of 35+ was all about not breaking the boat, and we were sailing daylight hours with the turbo boost turned right down. During the night (the afternoon in Europe), the wind and sea have moderated a little, so we put up the small gennaker, and speeds have increased.

On trimarans, much more so than monohulls you are limited in speed by the seastate. In winds of 35k you could easily sail at up to 45 knots but you would be at a big risk of breaking the boat, as tens of tons of solid water crashed into the beams as you plunged through each wave you overtake - that's a lot of energy to dissipate. There is a crossover point where you start to go slower in increasing winds, due to the increasing seastate..we probably found that crossover today at 30 knots of wind. Another day there might be a different crossover. If we were near to land to windward the crossover might be a lot higher, as the sea would be flatter; or if the wind had just arrived, and the sea had not had time to build, or if there was a current in the same direction as the wind..there are a lot of factors that affect it, but basically we have to very careful with the speed or the boat and the balance of the sails to avoid nosediving the boat too often and too violently.

A couple of sayings we wrote on our galley wall one night as we were tearing along near the Cape of Good Hope, are good to keep in mind when the seastate is up..

An English saying....'To finish first, first you have to finish'

And a French one from Thierry Chabagny...."Qui veut aller loin, ménage sa monture ! "
'If you want to travel far, you have to look after your mount!'


Brian

Day 17

Another gentler day for most of today, with lighter winds than expected. But tonight a new low approaching so winds on the way up. 32 knots now.

Should be passing Cape Leewin in the morning - so will soon be south of Australia!

Tomorrow evening the front will be passing from this current low, so we will gybe onto starboard and start edging southwards again.

Out here we have been experiencing 'maxi trimaran jet lag' as the sun time is changing so fast. Yesterday I was woken the usual 20 mins before my standby started, and had no idea whether it was going to be day or night outside..it's always completely black in the bunk area, as there's no hatches and the black carbon does not reflect any light from further aft in the boat..I mentioned this feeling to the other 3 watchmates, and they all had had exactly the same slightly disorientating sensation at that time. We have been used to Atlantic time for a long while..

The Squadron of small acrobatic 'fighter jet' grey petrels that flitted so close to us yesterday, have been replaced by the 'heavy bombers' - big, black petrels that elegantly swoop and wheel around the boat, careful to not get too close to the turbulent wind downwind of our sails.

Did the big ones come in overnight and say, 'hey little fellas, we want our ball back, it's time to play somewhere else'? Or were the grey jets called back by Fighter Command?
We will never know, but its great to be surrounded by these amazing, and intelligent creatures. It's a real privilege of this trip to be almost flying with these birds, like them we are using just the currents of air to move across the seas, though unlike them we have only our one giant wing…

I remember that in the Vendee solo race , that if I quickly came on deck, there would often be an albatross right above the cockpit, just 5m away, having a good look. As soon as my head appeared it would drop back to 100m away and follow the boat for hours or often several days, to then come back for a sneaky look when I went below again! On land, you can apparently walk right up to an albatross on it's nest, but they seem much more wary at sea, in their element, strange...

Brian

Friday, 9 December 2011

Day 16

A relatively slow day today, with lighter wind speeds than forecast, and we are having to gybe downwind in the 15 knot westerly breeze, so not great progress eastwards. However we are still taking miles out of Groupama3, the current record holder, who are now over 2000 miles back, and the wind should increase again tonight, though remaining westerly..

In the last 5 days we have advanced Eastwards at amazing pace, I look at the wall chart in the cabin, and think of what terrain we would be crossing if we were travelling the same latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. 5 days ago we would have been crossing France, today we are in Eastern Kazakhstan and about to cross into Mongolia tomorrow. That would be a hell of a fast trip by land! If you drew a line straight up from us, it would cross a lot of Indian Ocean before landing in India, travelling up through Nepal, China, Kazakhstan and finally Russia. To our south there is the icy Antarctic continent..

Hi again..

Today the wind remained light most of the day, and it allowed the team to get a lot of little jobs done around the boat, without getting washed off the deck. Pym and I put grease into the mast ball which was about a half hour job, which should be done every week. That entailed disassembling some metal fittings in the sea spray which meant for some cold fingers afterwards..

Now the wind is back over 20 knots and we are back to closer to our usual 30 knots of speed, with one reef, medium gennaker and staysail on port gybe..The swell is from behind so the boat is sliding smoothly, overtaking one long swell after another. It's night time now, but dawn should be appearing around midnight..

It looks like we are going to stay on this port gybe now till Cape Leewin, getting headed down to an Easterly course as our wind shifts from the West to the North West..

There are about 20 small petrels flying with us, that are sometimes passing between the main hull and the windward hull, and flying out underneath the windward hull, just before it touches the water..amazing acrobatic displays..

It was time for a change of inner thermals today, after a very long and hot sailchange, so had a 'shower' with baby wipes and am now wearing shiny new black Mustos and feeling very good. If I am careful about staying dry, this should be good till around Cape Horn and back into the Tropics..

All the best!

Brian

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Terre en vue!

'Terre en vue!' shouted Manu as the mist abruptly parted to reveal the jagged mountains of the Kerguelens, laced with veins of snow and ice..

The mountains soar to 1800m, but we could only see the lower 200m, the rest remained resolutely overcast.

But that was enough to feast our eyes on, to take photos and videos. Before the mist parted we even took a photo of the radar screen, just to prove the island was there..It was our first land sighted since passing Santa Cruz de la Palma on Day 2..

We gybed twice to clear the wind shadow to the east of the island, the closest we approached was about 6 miles on the south side,

Fred at the helm saw a penguin dive between our hulls, and there was a lone albatross plus a dozen petrels circling behind us.

Now we are back on our usual port gybe, and are going to arc towards the north as the wind shifts west. This conveniently sets us up to go over a region of icebergs that extend to 48.5N to our East.

So warmer water here we come. Currently it's 4.3C, and really not too bad with dry suit gloves, boots and a surf helmet for driving..

Time to go on watch!



Brian

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Day 14 (almost)

Making great miles today, all on port gybe running ahead of a low pressure behind us..wind is 30 to 38 knots so we are changing between the small gennaker and Solent jib, as the wind alters, and keeping 2 reefs in the main..

We are going below the Crozet Islands now, and probably passing just south of the Kerguelens too..

We are down below 50S now so the globe is getting smaller here in a horizontal plane, so every 38.5 miles we sail east we are making a degree of longitude - we would have to do 60 miles on the equator to gain that same degree of longitude..So we are saving time by sailing at these latitudes..though does mean we are keeping a careful eye on the radar. This area has been thoroughly scanned for icebergs by satellite and none have been detected, but better safe than sorry..

Have mentioned our watch system before but thought would explain it better..

We have 14 crew in total.
2 off watch, Loick, who is the conductor of our orchestra, and grabs catnaps, and Juan, navigating, who hardly sleeps at all..one or more usually both of them are up on deck for all maneuvers..they sleep in 2 bunks aft of the nav station, which is below the cockpit..

The remaining 12 are divided into 3 watches of 4, each led by a watch captain. Who are Yvon, Fred and Jean-Baptiste.
I am on watch with Yvon.

We stay on GMT right around the world and do not alter the watch times for the local time. It could not be easier really. For instance, on our watch we are on deck from 8 to 12, off watch and in our bunks 12 to 4, and on standby mode 4 till 8..then on deck again. So twice a day we are on watch, off watch and on standby..

Every 4 hours everyone is up and changing modes. One group is coming off the deck to get undressed for bed. Another group is getting out of bed and getting dressed for standby and the 3rd group are going on deck from their standby. As you can imagine, in a confined space that is constantly moving, there is an elaborate choreography to this, rather like ants moving inside an anthill..somehow it all happens, with no friction. You need a certain amount of purpose to get done what you need to do, and a good awareness, respect and tolerance for what everyone else is trying to get done too. Somehow it all works, and the boat never stops moving, with at least 4 on deck at all times...
For manouvers it's usually 9 or 10 people on deck, or 14 if it's near a watch change..
B

Day 13

Hi all

Yesterday was a positioning day, to put ourselves in the right spot for the next low that is coming through. We needed to get further south not to miss out on the best conditions. We gybed south twice to take advantage of slight windshifts towards the west. The gybes south on starboard were not pleasant at all on a trimaran with the swell near the beam shaking the boat around. Now back on port gybe, the swells are right behind us, and we are surfing smoothly from one swell to the next..it's not as fast and furious as before the Cape of Good Hope, but still over 30 knots most of the time, and low stress on the boat - she has done amazingly so far..

Hopefully we now stay on this gybe and in this wind as far as the Kerguelens in about 2 days time..

Just changed mealtimes around to account for heading east towards the sunrise. So instead of having breakfast we now made lunch at 0800..

Brian

Monday, 5 December 2011

Day 12 Report

Hi everyone..

1800 day 12
Pos 45S 25W
Wind 27kn WNW
One reef, staysail and small gennaker

What a difference 5 hours sailing southwards brings. This morning we were tearing along 550 miles to the south of the tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas (spelling?). It was bright sunshine and 10C water. Now we are on the same heading and 100 miles further south and it's overcast, limited visibility and the water is 7C..it's the water temp that makes the difference. It's high summer here, December, and on an equivalent latitude to La Rochelle in the north, yet it's feeling distinctly wintry. I am sure La Rochelle is balmier today, even in mid winter! However, we are still tearing along, which is the key point, and why we are here..

Another gybe southwards likely tonight, so it may be soon time to put the boots on for the first time this trip, and get the gloves ready, just in case..

All good on board, we have settled into our watch system well. Our watch is on standby now, Yvon is cooking dinner to be ready for 1915, we have just helped to shake out a reef, and I have been marking up the world map on the wall with our position each day, as well as getting my clothing ready for the colder waters to come.

So far my Musto gear has worked perfectly, I have not got wet even once, am in the same thermals I had at the start, though had lighter gear for the tropics. Have just been a little self indulgent and treated myself to new underpants, just because I could..the key is to put on the right outer layers, so you don't get the inner layers wet. The latex seals on the neck and cuffs of the foul weather top are keeping all the salt water out. I do remember very well having water wicking up the arms in gear years ago - those days thankfully have passed..

Brian

Cape of Good Hope

It's quite incredible to have passed the cape of good hope late last night, and we should be passing cape aghulas (spelling?) the southernmost point of Africa in 30 minutes, in just a shade under 12 days from Ushant island.

We have had great weather, Loick, Juan and Marcel, on the shore, have taken us on an excellent route, always in the wind, and on deck we have worked hard at sailing fast and safely.

25% of the current record time done now, maybe more if we are quicker than 48 days...pleased to have this much time on the record, and it looks like some decent weather ahead to the Kerguelens at least.

Likely to put a short gybe in southwards today to catch the next low coming up from behind..

All well on board. 2 reefs and small gennaker, 30 kn wind



Brian

Morning All

Congratulations to Sam Davies for announcing her sponsorship for the 2012 Vendee. Great news!

It's been Fast and Furious on the water last night. Over 30 knots speed all the time, intense concentration on the helm. Instruments the only reference to steer by.

On standby watch now 4 till 8am. If no sail changes called, there is time to look at our position, check email, make some porridge and grab a nap..

Friday, 2 December 2011

Day 9

We are really moving fast now, its actually hard to do less than 30 knots of speed.. Wind is 27 kn from 135 TWA.

If all goes well it should be a good mileage for this day. Prob the best of the trip so far, though nothing like the 900 miles this boat has done during its Transatlantic Record, which took a total of 3.5 days. We are in a marathon here, not a sprint, with nearly 40 more days to sail, and besides, the conditions are not as good as they were then..

Most of the multihull 24 hour records lately have been made leaving New York going east to Europe in the dead flat seas off the East Coast, but there have been several monohull 24 hour records broken right here, south of the St Helena High, because the seas can be relatively flat and the N wind strong, ahead of a front..

Just this year Loick Peyron broke the double handed IMOCA 60 record here with JP Dick, a record which before was held by Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape, also made in the same area.

In the Volvos several records have been made here too. ABN and then Ericcson 4, II believe, in the last race..

Suffice to say, it's great sailing and we are making the most of it, though being prudent with the boat.

It's colder now, with water temp to 15 C, and it's back to full foul weather gear on deck to protect against the spray too..

Anyway time for a nap now in my off watch..At 1800 pos 40S 27W
Wind 27kn from NNW
Small gennaker, staysail, 2 reefs..

We have just entered the legendary Roaring Forties and are making good miles to longitude of the Cape Of Good Hope..The blue skies are back after disappearing this morning..fantastic fast sailing..

It's Loick's birthday today, and there is a sign in the galley inviting anyone to our Beach Bar Terrace for a little celebration. Am catering for 14, as guests staying outside the resort will find finding the venue somewhat difficult, and parking a real nightmare..

Saw probably the last flying fishes today. Both Pym and I saw different ones, each of them the biggest we had ever seen, and we have seen a few in our time - they were the 'Dreamliners' of flying fish - the size of small salmon! I wonder how old they would have been? water temp was 15.7C, so that matches to the first flying fish seen off Lisbon in the N. Hemisphere in 16C water In our 8 day traverse of the flight path of flying fish from 39n to 39s, I have concluded that they are born in the warm equatorial regions and can move outwards to colder waters as they grow older and bigger. Will have to some reading about them on return, maybe there is a new aerial Moby Dick novel just waiting to be written..though prob not by me..

Bye for now


Brian

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Day 7

1800 Pos 18 40S. 35 30W
Average 22 kn of wind from the East. Occ squalls
Boatspeed 28-37 knots..
Apprx mileage yesterday 640nm

Heading down the endless coast of Brasil today, going fast in good conditions, though with occasional squalls. Not yet heading towards the direction of the Cape of Good Hope, as we still have the St Helena high to pass to the west of..if we took the direct route we would be stuck in light airs. The analogy would be of choosing to take the M25 motorway around London over sitting in traffic in the centre of the city - in the end we will get there much quicker..it does seem odd when looking at our route on the map though, and we are all itching to head SE..

After the doldrums we started sailing nearly upwind at 55TWA but the wind has progressively shifted left as we have sailed southwards, so we are now sailing at 120TWA, with one reef in the mainsail and either the Solent or staysail at the front. Perfect sailing, with low stress on the boat, and relatively high and consistent speeds..

It's always a pleasure to steer this boat, but in conditions like this Yvon and I call it 'driving a Cadillac Eldorado '78' down the highway - straight and smooth..

There is still max concentration at these high speeds from the driver and the trimmers, but the boat just wants to run - we just have to gently guide it down that straight highway in the desert..

Brian

New Equator Record

The 40m maxi-trim Banque Populaire crossed the equator at 23:26:52 UTC last night. In the process she set a new record from Ushant to the Equator of 5 days, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds, subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed ​​Record Council.

Yesterday skipper Loïck Peyron had worried: "because of the many manoeuvres the active Doldrums has forced us to make and because Franck [Cammas, skipper of Jules Verne Trophy record holderGroupama 3] had left later, when the Doldrums were further south, it may be hard to beat the time made ​​by the crew of Groupama two years ago. We will not have much difference - it will be difficult to beat." In fact two years ago Groupama 3 had reached the Equator in a time of 5 days 19 hours and 7 minutes. This was 1 day 7 hours 49 minutes better than previous record holder Orange 2's reference time, but outside of Groupama 3's own record set in 2009 of 5 days 15 hours and 23 minutes.

This morning Banque Populaire continues to forge south and into the southeasterly trades has had to take a course to the west - in fact slightly further west than Groupama 3 was at this stage of her lap of the planet. However as the trades back into the east, so the monster tri has already begun her slow arc into the south and once past Recife later today we'll start to see some east in her heading.

Her speed is also building and since yesterday afternoon has been back to a relentless 25+ knots. While this is record speed for a VO70, it is cruising speed for the 40m trimaran enabling her to reel out endless 24 hour runs of 600 miles. At this pace her fortunes for the rest of the week are still looking great. On Thursday the south Atlantic high is still forecast to be centred at around 36°S 5°W (ie in the southeast quadrant of the South Atlantic) allowing Banque Populaire to key into the favourable strong northerlies preceeding a front to the southeast of the high. This in turn will allow her to make a fast, seamless transition into the Southern Ocean, while also having sailed many less miles than Groupama 3. Barring disaster except the record to the Cape of Good Hope to fall over next week.

Taken from dailysail.com

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Monday & Tuesday

Monday

My personal wildlife count has not been too impressive so far this trip - if we discount all the flying fish seen..

A pod of Dolphins off Cape Finisterre on Day 1, a white gannet bird on Day 2, and a few little black storm petrels on days 3 and 4, once in the tropics..

However, those flying fish have been interesting. I first started seeing them off Lisbon in 16C water, and they were all solitary and large - mackerel sized.

Now that we are in the tropics we are seeing more 'squadrons' of baby flying fish, from sardine sized to herring sized. The water temp is 25C now and there is a lot of sargasso weed around.

Could it be that they spawn here in the warm waters, perhaps near the Sargasso weed, and move north for more food when they are older?

Will see if the theory works in reverse as we enter the south Atlantic and head towards cooler waters!

Any real answers, rather than my uneducated suppositions, on a postcard please!

Brian

Tuesday

Liking these SE Tradewinds! A steady 22knots of wind, blue skies, beam reaching at close to 30 kn speed. One reef + staysail.

Passing by the easternmost bulge of Brasil now, probably the closest we get to continental land till Cape Horn..

Very hot below, so hard to sleep in the daytime - and the sun is only getting higher in the sky as we move southwards..

Happy Mondays!
Brian

Monday, 28 November 2011

Day 4

Hi Guys

A very big days run yesterday, in easy conditions of flattish seas and wind from 115 to 125 TWA and18 to 25 knots of wind. We had the bonus of seeing other sailing boats out on the ocean, who were competing in the ARC race..so a great day..

Now it's going to get a lot more tricky as we approach the doldrums at sunset tonight. Last year they were very slow for us and the forecast is not looking so promising for us again. Already our boatspeed is dropping to 20, which does seem very slow right now, but might become a dream later, as we might be ensnared in large black clouds, with little wind between them..

Let's see what tonight brings, it would be great to keep moving and set a really good time to the equator. But that will decided by the capriciousness of clouds..

Brian

Busy Oceans

It must be because of leaving in November, but I have never seen this many sailing boats out in the atlantic ocean -- in the last 5 hours have seen 5 other boats, all going in the same direction..

When the first one appeared, i was steering and as it was right ahead, so a 'fly by' was always going to happen..As we got closer we had the strongest wind of the day, and we were doing 37 knots as we flashed past the cruising catamaran about 15m off..

I was concentrating hard to keep that safe but still interesting distance off, so did not get a good a view of the boat. But it looked like a 45 ft British cat, and it seemed to be the flying the flag of the ARC race..so that's perhaps what all the others were doing, they had all left the Canaries for St Lucia at the same time..

Kevin Escoffier took some video from Banque Pop, and later sent it off via the satellite comms system - so look out for that. Hopefully the cat will have taken some video too and will put it online when they get to the Caribbean.

It may appear to be a crowded ocean today, but every boat crossing the Atlantic is on its own grand adventure, already alone in its own plot of water, and soon each one will be scores of miles from another.Hope they all have a good crossing. I wonder where on earth we will be when they are sipping their first rum punch?

Anyway, that's the serendipitous excitement of the day...

Brian

Friday, 25 November 2011

Latest from onboard

In this first 48 hours of this record attempt, we have made progress that is verging on the ridiculous - 2 days to the Canaries is surreal.. It's already shorts and T shirt weather, the tradewinds are starting to waft us southwards, and puffy white clouds punctuate the bright blue sky..

On Cheyenne when we prepared for the record in 2003 (?) our parameters for starting were to take 4 days to the Canaries. Now on Banque Pop our requirement is to be less than 6 days at the equator, and we are already looking ahead at the weather at the Cape of Good Hope..

We have made great progress on our phantom ship - Groupama. over the last 2 days, but today as we gybe to the west we will be loosing some of that gain, but no worries, we are all very happy to get down to here so fast, and this is when Groupama were at high speed..

Earlier this morning we went past the island of Santa Cruz de la Palma, and it was a bonus to see some land, I was not expecting to see terra firma till Cape Horn..there was a flurry of activity to send texts home, but I was driving at the time so just missed the signal. Does not last long at 25 knots..

The wind has, as expected, started to fall as we get close to the High Pressure, so the exciting, powered up, firehouse experience has been replaced with more finesse sailing, trying to coax 25 knots of speed out of 15 knots of wind. We now for the first time have the full main and the big gennaker up..

So now it feels like we are out of the North Atlantic and into the tropical, or at least tradewind Atlantic, so should be some holiday sailing until the doldrums..

Brian.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Africa (update)

What a pleasure to be on this speeding machine. Last watch I drove for an hour with speed between 30 to 40 knots and a top speed of 42..Small gennaker, stay sail and one reef in the main in26 knots of wind. My top speed everon this boat was 45 knots last year, and the boats top speed is 47 when it did the Transatlantic Record in 3.5 days.

Now wind still 23 to 26 knots but sea calming a little so slightly less of a rodeo ride on board, or perhaps we are getting used to it! ..We changed from the small to the medium gennaker at noon, anticipating the wind dropping to 20 knots tonight, as we get closer to the Canaries..

Changing clothing as well, am now just wearing Musto light thermals under the Musto foul weather gear, Its still very wet on deck with the bows sending back jets of spray to the cockpit. Have not put on boots yet, just light shoes with Goretex socks, will save my boots for the Southern Ocean!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Brian's First night at sea onboard Banque Populaire V

We are now tearing across the Bay of Biscay, boatspeed consistently above 30 knots since the start.

Not far from a gybe into Cape Finisterre, and the first part of the trip completed::

Its already starting to get slightly warmer on deck and we are just entering our second night at sea:

The first night was more peaceful, being towed around till midnight in a flat calm, and then hove to in light winds waiting for the wind to fill in at dawn.

The start was spectacular with rough seas off Ushant Island, the swell breaking on the overfalls and onto the jagged cliffs and outlying rocks.

Straight into the record we were doing 35 knots of speed with Loick on the helm, one reef, small gennaker and staysail..The seas were not too pleasant with a large swell on the beam, which gave some rough sailing for the boat and the crew.The seas are starting to line up with the wind now..We have gone to 2 reefs and then back to one reef.

The start reminded me of similar weather conditions when Orange1 started from Ushant, and after 10 minutes the top of their mast had broken off; and they had to pull out and repair it in 2 weeks, before restarting again..Florent Chastel, one of our bowman was on that trip, and it was good to chat about it..I also remember following it at the time, and then reading Nick Moloney's book 'Chasing the Dawn' about that adventure..

Hope you get this ok

Brian

Monday, 21 November 2011

BANQUE POPULAIRE V TO DEPART ON JULES VERNE TROPHY RECORD ATTEMPT TODAY

Brian and the crew of Banque Populaire V to depart on Jules Verne Trophy record attempt today. Due to leave dock in brest at 5pm French Time... More updates to follow....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Banque Populaire to attempt round Britain record

Loïck Peyron and the crew of the 40m maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V set out last Friday for a week of training and are now preparing to set off an attempt on the Round Britain record, taking advantage of a weather window that should allow them to establish the new reference time.
Banque Populaire V is due to set off tonight at 1700 GMT to better the outright course record established last year of 4 days, 15 hours, 9 minutes and 27 seconds set by singlehanded Sidney Gavignet on Majan Oman Air in August 2010. Gavignet bettered by 1 hour Playstation's previous record set by the late Steve Fossett in October 2002.
Peyron and his 12 crew members will cross the line off the Lizard and head off on an anti-clockwise lap, up the Channel and North Sea around the Shetland Islands before coming down the west coast Ireland before returning to the Lizard. A vioyage represents a distance of 1,787 nautical miles.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Banque Populaire demolishes SNSM record

30.5 knot average for 360 mile course...

As expected the monster trimaran Banque Populaire V, under her new skipper Loick Peyron, has demolished the existing time for the Record SNSM. Peyron and his twelve-man crew crossed the finish line at 06:48:30 CET this morning having taken just 11 hours 48 minutes and 30 seconds to cover the 360 miles course along the Brittany coast.

In brisk conditions with a southwest wind of 18-20 knots, they broke the course record previously set in 2010 by Gitana 11 of 19 hours 39 minutes and 58 seconds. For the course Banque Populaire averaged 30.51 knots and had bursts of over 40 knots.

Crew of Banque Populaire V for the Record SNSM comprised Loïck Peyron, Erwan Tabarly, Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, Kevin Escoffier, Armel Le Cléac'h, Xavier Revil, Fred le Peutrec, Emmanuel Le Borgne, Ronan Lucas, Yvan Ravussin, Brian Thompson, Pierre-Yves Moreau and Thierry Chabagny.

Peyron commented: "We had a pretty good SNSM Record. We saw nothing, or almost: it was gray and wet ... The start was a little complicated in the middle of a large fleet - with such a big machine, without an engine, it feels a bit limited. We therefore started very cautiously, from behind, but it was also the best way to ensure we finished. And then what an exceptional crew! This boat is an incredible record-breaking machine, a magnificent ship, giving a great feeling of protection, but I think it is not just a feeling: Banque Populaire is very high in the water and well protected, and I think is a thousand times safer than many racing monohulls.

"Overnight there wasn't much visibity. Typically we'd spend an hour, sometimes a little less, at the helm. But this coastal sprint, required extreme concentration as we crossed several times others in the Record SNSM fleet. But I am very happy on these big multihulls and it is also very nice to share such moments with a crew of this quality. For all the sailors on board, this Record SNSM has been very important - we are all very happy with this first race for this boat, which is not designed to compete in fleets, but to hunt records."

Second place was taken by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's Gitana 11, skippered now by Seb Josse. The 77ft trimaran finished at 09:18:45 CET, two and a half hours behind Banque Populaire. Still they had also upped their performance from last year, covering in the course at a 25 knots average compared to 18 last year.

James Boyd, The Daily Sail

Thursday, 3 March 2011

10 Days Later

It's now 10 days since we returned to base at Lorient on Banque Populaire V, and if we had not run into an UFO (unidentified floating object) to the SE of South Africa, or had any other issues, we would now have been already around the Horn and been back in the tropics, travelling up the coast of Brasil towards the Equator.

Would we have been ahead or behind the record? Who knows, but one thing is certain - it would have been very close.. This Jules Verne record has very little slack in it now, as the time has plunged from 79 days down to 48 days..You can now compare it to beating Vettel on a qualifying lap in F1 – you are going to have to pull out all the stops and have a faultless lap. No mechanical problems, nobody getting in your way – and you have to be driving a very fast vehicle!

But that’s all a dream now, the thing to focus on is that we got back safely and will be ready to fight again soon. We had thought that there was even a very slim chance of leaving again this season, as we were leaving the door open until about the 10th of March. After that it is getting too late at the other end of the Southern Ocean - even leaving March 10 means going around Cape Horn around the April 10, which is the equivalent of the 10th of October for us Northerners. So that’s the 57th Parallel after the Autumnal equinox, with the nights already significantly longer than the days, and the storms really starting to become more powerful, so that’s the absolute limit.

The Banque Pop shore team had worked really hard to get the boat ready for a fast restart, but a little problem found with the aft beam is going to need more careful inspection and repair than the time we have available, so the refit has gone off red alert and on to normal time, and we are going to get ready for a new standby in early November, in 8 months time.

Although it would have been a great story to sail half way around the world, turn back and then restart immediately and then get the record, I think this delay is going to give us a much greater chance of success. Time to test out the boat over the spring and summer and then be even more prepared for November. Actually, I thought we were incredibly well prepared back in Brest, but there are always things learnt over 15,000 miles of sailing, especially miles sailed on the route, and its all going to help us for next time.

I would love to go again, and I am looking forward to our next attempt. This trip really showed that I still have a real passion for this round the world course, for being at sea, whether its fully crewed, solo or double handed. I am very lucky to have been able to do it 3 times already non stop so far..Every time is different, each time is a unique challenge.

I have been following closely the Barcelona World Race. I am particularly drawn to see both how my old Vendee Globe boat is doing, now renamed Hugo Boss, with Andy and Wouter, and also Dee and Anna on Gaes, the ex Aviva. Dee is about to get her 4th round the world under her belt, and her 3rd non stop..The funny thing is that the 2 boats are as close together as they were during the last Vendee in the same Pacific waters. Different sequence of events to get there, but the same outcome, quite uncanny. Hope they don’t have to again park up at Cape Horn for 18 hours for a storm to pass, as we both did last time!

Amazing battle at the front of the fleet between ‘Goose and Maverick’, the Spanish all stars on Mapfre, and the French vets on Virbac. They are both going very quickly, its going to be a great race to watch right to the finish. Just watched the video of Virbac getting round the Horn, thrilling footage, really close the the island..

Also watching the solo outright record attempt of Thomas Coville, he is 1000 miles back now, but can make that time up in the Atlantic, its only an arrears of 2 days, he just needs some lucky breaks in the weather. He is showing great mental toughness to just keep pushing and see how the cards fall at the end. It was the same position 2 years ago for him, and it did not work out in the end, so I hope it does this time..

After a few days working on the boat last week, I flew home and took the kids down to Salcombe to visit my mother. We had a great time there. Next up this weekend is the Toe in the Water training weekend in Gosport for the volunteer crew who assist the injured servicemen racing in Cowes Week and other regattas throughout the year. It will be great to catch up with my old friends from the charity. I have only 2 worries, one is writing and doing a talk for Saturday morning, and the other is the Camouflage party they are holding Saturday night..The sailing Saturday afternoon will be a piece of cake - I have lots of thermals ready!

Ok, better sign off now..I will try to keep this blog updated more regularly from now on, and also to add photos from the Banque Populaire trip as I receive them from the guys in Lorient, so do keep checking in.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The latest from onboard....

Day 22.4 1700 13 Feb

Tradewinds are blowing at full force now, 25 to 30 knots with a good sized sea running, as we beat north towards home. On the way down 17 days ago, when we were downwind we had the opposite problem, with the tradewinds being very light and the seas flat calm..We are actually going faster now than when we were in the same place and going downwind!

This trip has been almost all VMG running downwind from the moment we started so a little upwind just restores the balance..

Still 2 reefs and the ORC (large storm jib) and we are adjusting the traveller and mainsheet to control the speed over the waves. Today we are reaching a little more to have a better angle to the waves and reach more favorable wind directions sooner.

Its extremely wet on deck, so although it’s the tropics and the water is 28C I have got Musto foul weather top, waterproof shorts, and a headgear arrangement of baseball cap, goretex balaclava and Oakley snowboarding goggles. As I chose a top with no hood, for lightness and flexibility, this is a sort of removable hood system..Works well for me, but probably 80 percent of the crew have conventional hoods..

Driving is particularly wet, with the spray coming at you at 30-40 knots it is a lot more comfortable to drive with goggles on, than constantly squinting and ducking to avoid the incoming spray. Particularly at night when you can be hit by a big lump of salt water with your eyes fully open, that’s a little painful for a few seconds!

Sleeping a little hard to achieve in these conditions, but you need to get in the bunk just to clear the space for the 14 people on board. I am in the top bunk of 4 and am using the purchase system to angle the bunk almost to the ceiling to make sure I don’t fall out if I do doze off!

That’s all for now, everything fine on board, the team are happy and we are making some good miles back to the barn..as they would say in the US..

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Bumpy Ride

12 Feb 1850 02 30N  25W

Not much opportunity for writing today. The morning standby watch was spent on deck helping the onwatch team work the boat through a large doldrums cloud. We made about 20 miles progress in 4 hours.

So we were making 1 knot when we officially began our watch, but had the great satisfaction of weaving our way through the slow moving clouds and finding the NE Tradewinds. So by the end of the 4 hour watch we were making 18 knots, and we felt free of the doldrums..

The next off watch was incredibly hot and it was  impossible to sleep as the upwind speed crept up to 20, then 25 knots in good sized tradewind waves - it was like trying to sleep in a vigorously shaken sauna..

No big change in the next several days as we travel against the tradewinds. We are constantly monitoring our speed to try to provide the boat an easy ride. We are on delivery after all and not racing. We have changed down to a double reefed main and ORC headsail (which is a large storm jib)..The True windspeed is 23 knots, our boatspeed is 23 knots and the apparent windspeed is 40 knots!

This is Brian, braced in the galley, signing off..

Brian

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Groundhog Day!

Day 18.7 15N 17W

Groundhog day here with another 24 hours of sailing at 130 True Wind Angle in 12 to 15 knots of wind, flat seas, only a few minor rain showers each dawn.. After the doldrums its looking like strong upwind tradewinds so am enjoying waking up to this same song on the radio every morning..(you had to see the movie)…

Full main, medium gennaker..Foil down, foil up, foil down as the wind sends the boatspeed above or below 22 knots and we need or don’t need the extra lift in the leeward hull from the curved foil.  These curved foils make such a difference, the leeward hull is never buried in the water, in fact, the faster you go, the higher it rides. The boat is also much easier to steer as you usually lift some daggerboard at the same time (though in our case right now, there is only 30 cm of daggerboard that we can lift due to the collision).

Even though we have been sailing parallel to the coast of Brasil for 3 days at 20 knots plus, we still have another 3 days to go to get to its top - an enormous country. Overlaying Brasil on to Africa to the East, it would cover from South Africa to Liberia..Right behind the galley bench is  a large map of the world, and I have been plotting our position on it each day, and these are the sort of things you notice when you have some time on your hands..

The visibility here is incredible, yesterday afternoon we were seeing the tops of large cumulus clouds that must have been well over 60 miles away, and they looked like snowcapped volcanoes.

More later

Brian

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Day 17.7



Day 17.7 09 Feb 1730  22N 13W

More easy miles under our 3 hulls today, as we slide once more into the Tropics..A few sail changes this morning from gennaker to solent and back to gennaker are a welcome bit of exercise. I have taken to doing some circuit training in the cockpit during the night watch, just to keep fit. Reminds me of all the boxercise classes I did at David Lloyd Southampton as part of the training for this trip.)

Earlier in the trip I mentioned the motion down below was like a underground train on a motocross course. Now it is more just a normally bumpy ride on the Piccadilly line, so you do need to hang on  to keep your balance, but you are not going to get flung across the cabin as before..

And at mealtimes down below it’s a cross between the underground at rush hour, a school cafeteria and the game of twister, as everyone moves in an elaborate dance in the galley to get food, sit down to eat it and get up to wash up without upsetting the equilibrium of the hive. Its everyman for himself in a very polite French way which works perfectly. Being English and culturally programmed to queue; meant I was never going to wash up my bowl initially, I have learnt you just need to jump in there!

Still wonderfully enjoyable to steer this boat VMG downwind, and I feel that after 17 days have certainly got better, and are able to keep it in a very narrow groove for longer and longer, overtaking more and more waves at 25 to 27 knots of boatspeed in 16 knots of wind until one wave finally blocks you and slows you down to 21 knots..Come up for a few seconds by 4 degrees, labour up that wave and ever so slowly pivot over the top of it to start accelerating down the face. Trying to resist the temptation to bear away immediately, instead watching the speed rise, making sure the main hull does not lift clear and spook the trimmers, and then bear away smoothly that 4 degrees, but no more and get into that 27 knot groove again, watching every facet of the waves in front, ready to come up a fraction, powering up the boat in anticipation of any slowing waves in our path.

We are doing 40 minute shifts on our watch, so although we are on delivery its full concentration for each 40 minutes, both for the practice for the real thing again and just for the sheer fun of it.

Ok, bye for now

Brian

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Heading Home..


Day 16.8

0730 8 Feb 30 30N  10W

We gybed onto the long starboard up to the Doldrums at midnight and are now heading north at good speed. Now at 30 30S, so into the latitude of southern Brasil, northern South Africa, southern Australia and well north of all of New Zealand..

Sailing with the medium gennaker, staysail and full main. Saw the first flying fish yesterday so the albatrosses are far behind now, wheeling around the Southern Ocean without us.

Yesterday, when not steering, I had an educational time with my iphone, and the brilliant ‘Star Walk’ application, learning the Southern stars properly. The Southern cross I knew already, embedded in the milky way, but not alpha and beta centauri, the triangle australis, and I recognized Saturn for the first time ever. So more study tomorrow, and the rest of the crew are getting keen on the stars and planets too. Although as Yvon said, you can’t see the Southern Cross from his home in Switzerland, so he’s waiting till in the Nothern Hemisphere to learn the stars!

I think from doing celestial navigation pre GPS I became interested in finding stars, just so that you can calculate your own position, but now in this age of the instant positioning its interesting to find more about the stars than just where to find them…

The days here are flashing by, watch by watch. The equator is coming up rapidly and after that there is some windy upwind in the NE tradewinds. So enjoying this downwind sleighride we are having now. Very low stress as we are still have our speed limits in force to preserve the daggerboard..

All the best from the South Atlantic!

 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Heading North

07 Feb 37S O2E

Heading north now and its rapidly getting warmer, just in one day the water temp has gone from 11 to 18C. Skies are still cloudy but I am sure by tonight as we are up to the latitude of South Africa, we are once more going to see the stars again.

We are sailing carefully downwind, in maxi trimaran terms, and throttling right back to 25 – 26 knots, to take care of the repaired daggerboard. It seems strange, and I am speaking as someone who still remembers the rush of excitement when I first hit 10 knots on a keelboat, but on this boat 20 knots feels like you are trickling along and at 25 you are just starting to get moving. It really is a speed generator. I have say that I sometimes consciously subtract 10 knots from the BandG speed display just to make some normality to the numbers,  not to be spooked by doing a steady 39 knots or whatever it might be..’Ok, its only 29 knots, lets try for 30!’..which is of course 40!

I have an amazing 40 mins before I go on watch with nobody else waiting for the computer, and only one job to do – looking after the watermaker and filling the waterbottles, so I thought that I would send a few emails, but it always takes longer than I think, but that is French keyboards for you!

Brian! X

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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Heading Home...

 Day14.3   'Heading Home'  45S 01E

Hi everyone

As you might have heard by now, we have turned our bows away from Cape Horn, and back towards Lorient, the boat’s home port.

Pascal took the decision this morning after speaking to all the team yesterday to get their views, and of course the sponsors, has decided to try for the Jules Verne Trophy another time. With only half a daggerboard we were only remotely likely to get the record, performance wise but also there was the added risk of the repair not working at 40 knots of boatspeed, and the rudder in the central hull being more exposed..

Everyone on board realises that it was the only sensible option. We tried really hard to keep going after the accident, but some things are just not going to happen in the way that you want them to. The good thing about the Jules Verne Trophy is that it can happen when you want, its not like the Vendee that occurs once every 4 years. The team are already planning improvements, ready for the next try.

A 33 percent success ratio is the historical norm for this record, backed up by Groupama having 2 failed attempts before finally getting the record last year. It is par for the course..

It has been a real privilege to sail with this team, I have enjoyed every second, and now there is an equal distance to get home, so I am sure we will learn more in the next thousands of miles. Spirits are good, obviously its everyone's dream to get this record, but there will be another chance. The boat is fast and safe and the crew are excellent, its just a matter of time and energy and the goal will be achieved.

Its been great that so many of you have been following this adventure, and special thanks to all those who sent messges; they were much appreciated here.

I am going to continue to write some reports to keep everyone up to date. But thanks for watching so far!

Latest news is that work will continue into a second night on the daggerboard and we should be reinstalling it tomorrow morning, just as the wind increases. Our speed is limited to 13 knots at present to protect the now empty daggerboard case, but for the last 24 hours we have dreamed of doing 13 knots!

An albatross was circling the boat all afternoon in the rolling swell and light winds; what an incredible sight;  wingtips just sliding over the swell with 10mm to spare. Going upwind with us without once flapping those long thin wings: What a goodbye from the south…



Slow going...

0700 
Boat Speed 7.8 knots
280.4 miles behind Groupama's record
 

Busy night here with no wind, no daggerboard and 2 of our 4 man watch on daggerboard repair duty. Pym and Yvon worked through the night with just a short nap, to build a carbon reinforced rebate into the bottom of the daggerboard to hold the 2 sides of the daggerboard together. Now they are filling in this large rebate with a mix of glue and cut up pieces of high density foam to make a nice hydrodynqmic tip to the now ultra short board. Last job is to put carbon over this endcap and to scarfe it into the carbon sides so that the board is not a millimetre wider than before – otherwise it won,t fit back into the case.

Hopefully it will be back in for the evening. All this night we have had winds from every direction possible, and so have gybed and tacked dozens of times, with the wind generally less than 5 knots. Sailing with no daggerboard is a little like a dinghy without one; not a lot of upwind progress.

Still pretty foggy here, though not too cold with the water at 12C.  We should be trickling across the 0 meridian later this morning. It has taken most of the night to get from Heathrow Airport longitude to Hammersmith, now just a few more miles to Greenwich – we are certainly walking at the moment and not going by motorbike!

Bx


Friday, 4 February 2011

The inside scoop...

1800
6.8 knots
70.4 miles ahead of Groupama

1828 Just a quick update as you can imagine it is quite busy here with sailing the boat, and at the same time undertaking a big boatbuilding job on the deck.

The night before last I was on the helm doing a steady 37 knots when bang, we hit an unidentified object, which broke off the sacrificial tip of the daggerboard plus some of the main structure above, which includes a main vertical beam with 55mm of solid carbon on each side of a wood core..The night was pich black so no way to see or avoid the object.

That night, after backing down to remove any debris, we carried on, with extra vibration of course from the board. The next day, yesterday was windy so we carried on fast, though purposely flew the hull 5m in the air at one point to see the state of the board. We were surprised at the extent of the damage, it was more serious than expected and we knew there was a big repair ahead.

Last night the wind dropped, unfortunately for our lead over Groupama, but it has given us perfect conditions to extract the 600kg board and start repairs: Yvon and Pym are doing an outstanding job and are going to be working through the night: The broken bits are now cut off and a complex capping needs to be put in place over the cut end to withstand 40 knots of boatspeed.

All we can do now is try to get the repair done properly and find the wind again..

Right, I am cooking dinner tonight; so better go and serve it up, so will write more when able..

Brian

Photos of the damage onboard Banque Populaire V






Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Back on the express train!

1830 2nd Feb 43S 26W

Incredible what a difference 24 hours can make when you are doing 700 miles a day!

From shorts and no t-shirt at night, to looking for that second layer of thermals in the daytime.
From flying fish to albatross.
From teasing out every .25 of a knot of speed to get 20 knots in flat water, to sailing in defensive mode, de-tuning the boat and driving cautiously to keep the speed below 38 knots!

Its now in the early 30 knots of windspeed and we are broad reaching with 3 reefs and the staysail, still with plenty of power to do a steady 35 knots of boatspeed.

Although we entered the Roaring Forties this morning its still sunny with clear visibility and a single set of waves. So great conditions and a few albatross have come for a distant inspection of the boat.

It was great to see the excitement of some of the guys…. Thierry Chabignet and Erwan Tabarly, both top Figaro sailors, (Erwan is the nephew or Eric Tabarly), were sitting together and enjoying their first sailing in the South, something they have probably both read about and dreamed about since they were kids sailing in Brittany.

Its certainly a good start to our Southern adventure, which is the real meat in the sandwich of this Trophee Jules Verne for giant multihulls.

We are on the Southern Ocean Express, though unfortunately there are engineering works ahead with a high pressure in our route. We are going to have to find a way around that barrier and Pascal, Juan and Marcel on the shore are working on the options, as the weather forecasts evolve. But right now its full steam ahead, and its a nice bonus, if perhaps a temporary one, to be getting ahead of Groupama's position again.

Just about to serve up dinner, Norwegian Chowder, should be just right served with the last loaf of fresh bread, specially double baked for us by a baker in Lorient, which has been delicious. Its vacumn packed slice white from tomorrow - cannot be on a French boat without du pain!

That’s all for now

BXX 

This is what I came for!

0730 2 FEB 39 30S  32 30W
Speed hardly dropping below 34 knots all night.

A huge change from this time yesterday in temperature, wind speed and sea state.

Sailing with genoa and 2 reefs now, and just about to enter the Forties latitude on this next watch.

Several sail changes during the night demanded top concentration from all the crew, From big gennaker to medium; then one reef; then to the string; the name for the smallest gennaker; then 2 reefs, then to genoa. Each sail change we go to the genoa between changes for max speed which also helps to roll the gennakers in and out. The key crewmen , helm, bow, skipper, trimmer and pitman are all miked up so that shouting or hand signals are not required, then the other 8 are on the grinders providing the power.

On watch now, its going to be exciting driving,  great, its what we come here for..

Brian

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday evening update

Evening update

The train has finally pulled out of the station, after we have been waiting around on the platform for 3 days!
We are now feeling the effects of a small low pressure and For the first time since the equator we have have wind of over 20 knots and we are making the most of it, sitting at a steady 30plus knots of speed in relatively flqat seas. The sky is now cloudy, and it is starting to cool down outside as we rocket down through the 30s in latitude..
Whether this particular train is going all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, remains to be seen. The weather models still widely divergent even in a short time scale (something unlikely in the North Atlantic), so all we can do now is hang on and enjoy the ride..

Brianxx

Day 9.75 waiting for the express train south...


0730 1 Feb Pos 29S 38 30W

Still at the station waiting for the SE express train to pull in. Looks like it will be arriving tonight, though there are two different timetables on display, the European
 timetable is showing a direct service, and the US timetable is showing major engineering works and we could be taking the bus at times.
Translation..
So the low is finally coming to us, but the 2 major weather models have widely divergent views on what is going to happen. Fingers crossed the European model is correct.

Otherwise its delightful sailing, no water on deck, now
warm instead of hot. Still big gennaker and full mainsail. We have done several gybes each day, and all have gone like clockwork. Moved sails back and forward as the wind increased and dropped,and hoisted and lowered the staysail several times. Spending most of the time fine tuning the precise shape of the gennaker and the position of the main traveller and mainsheet.

Saw a green flash at sunset then another at sunrise, which I think is a first for me. A green flash (rayon vert on board) is when the top 5 percent of the sun turns green when
only that piece is above the horizon. So the sun turns from yellow to a dayglow green just for a second. Its caused by that very low sun shining though thousands of miles of atmosphere and the rest of the light spectrum being absorbed, leaving just the green. It can only happen when the visibility is really good and there are no clouds on the horizon where the sun is sinking, or rising..
The one in the morning was really distinct, and I was filming it on video, so hope it came out. Thierry and Yvon saw it as well, so I am not making it up, and not been at sea too long..
Looking forward to leaving the South American coastline and heading for Africa!
Bye for now



Monday, 31 January 2011

Day 8.75

0730 31 Jan  Pos 24S 38W

Leaving the tropics now after 5 days in the heat, its just getting a little cooler in the cabin. It was pretty steamy in the forward cabin with 12 people taking turns sleeping in the 4 bunks, and no fans, just a little ventilation from the daggerboard compartment just forward..

Yesterday afternoon, Florent went up in the outside of the mast for a check, whilst Kevin went up the inside of the mast to see any possible problems on the inside. The mast tube is enormous, easily room for a big lad like Kevin. Nothing amiss on the mast, and the next mast check might not be till after Cape Horn in flatter waters again.

 Past Rio now and still heading South in order to meet a low pressure system that is forecast to take us all the way across the South Atlantic and on past the Cape of Good Hope. We are awaiting this expres train to pull into the station, we have bought our tickets and are ready to depart, hopefully in the next 24 hours, but there may be leaves on the track or the wrong kind of snow…

Surprising how few birds have seen so far, not one bird from the start till just before the doldrums when we saw a couple of tiny black petrels. Looking forward to seeing the soaring Albatrosses in a few days.

On watch again now in 3 minutes..better press the envoyer/recevoir button
Brian

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Off the coast of Brazil on day 7.75!


0600 30 Jan  Pos 17S 36 30W

Hi there

Another hot night here off the coast of Brasil. Sailing downwind with the full main and biggest gennaker. There are a few rain clouds around, but nothing like last night at this same time of day, when we were stopped for hours in heavy rain. So we are making relatively steady progress, at around 15 to 23 knots, depending on the wind speed.

As you might have seen though, our progression towards Cape Town is hardly spectacular, and unfortunately we have more time of going slowly and not in the right direction, before we get a low pressure to send us eastwards. So do not expect us to break any records from the equator to Cape of Good Hope. The dream scenario is to be able to sail directly from here as Orange2 and Idec did, when they set their respective fully crewed and solo RTW records. But that happens rarely and the rest of the time, we have to take the long way around the St Helena High, and now we are even going the longer way than most. Such is sailing, and we are just racing as fast as we can to do those extra miles quickly.

Right now, the moon and Venus are rising in the East, its too hot for a Tshirt in the middle of the night, I have just had a bowl of porridge, and I am on watch in 100 minutes. Later today the sun will be directly overhead, as our latitude will be the same as the declination of the sun - so it will be a very hot one!

What is it like on board? To describe it to a non sailor it would be like a mix between driving in a F1 Qualifier each day, together with a 2 hour gym session daily, whilst touring the worlds most remote islands and undertaking a French immersion course all at the same time. Its certainly a special experience and I have been very lucky to be part of the team. Right now off to change to the genoa to sail round another rain cloud, then it will be on watch, so that’s all for now folks, a demain..