The decision has been made. I love that: play around with an idea, look at it from different perspectives, calculate, let it rest for a few hours and then: BOOM , decision !
Any decision is better than no decision. Once made, go for it full speed and don’t look back. Don’t dilly-dally around looking for a better decision, don’t hesitate . Make the best of it. No Way Back !
Yesterday I received a severe weather warning from race management, including wave forecasts that I did not have myself.
Very strong winds and waves up to 11 m high were forecasted for Biscay for the day of my arrival.
Such waves come rolling in from somewhere Greenland, over an ocean 4.000 m deep. Then suddenly they hit the Continental Shelf in the Bay of Biscay where depth rises like a cliff to only 150 m and later on to 25 m.
This creates huge, steep, dangerous breaking waves. 11 m, that is a good sized house falling over!
Such waves are only good for wave-surfing. No wonder Europe’s prime spot for surfing is the corner of Biscay near the French-Spanish border in weather as forecasted. But such waves are killers for boats , and once you have ventured into the Bay of Biscay with your boat you are in a veritable trap: there is no way out. Hence the reputation of the Biscay and the shivers down the spine of many a seaman at the name Biscay with wind and waves.
It all means you have to think ahead and decide very early.
The forecast is for all this to arrive on Les Sables d’Olonne just about the same time as I can reach Sables in the most optimistic scenario, but if I have only the slightest delay or if the big Depression travels just a bit faster than now forecasted I will be grandiosly ff-ed.
OK. Decision made. I am not going in there, I am not going into a full gale with huge seas , with a unmanned finish line, only hundreds of meters from a leeshore beach, only white foaming breaking seas and a harbour that is closed.
The decision hurts. It numbs me. I could cry with anger, frustration, disappointment.But I don’t want to risk not finishing the VG in the last few miles. I don’t want to loose the boat. I don’t want to die stupidly. I don’t want others to risk their lives trying to save me because I have been ignorant.
But what and where then?
The weather charts indicate that (most of) the storm will stay relatively far North and that the waters off Portugal will not be affected too much.
After informing race management of my decision I slow down to a comfortable cruising speed, aiming SSE , more or less towards Porto to wait it out there.
I will however need to do some thorough planning as the window is quite small: in a few days a next vicious Low will pass Biscay, whipping up 50+ kn (90+ km ) winds.By that time I must be in!
I prepare myself a huge brunch and have my 3rd cup of coffee in 4(!) months.
And then…..TIME. Time? Time ! Time for what? I don’t know.
All is done on the boat, I had prepared her in the past days for the last mad dash to les Sables. All is dry,organised, clean. In fact I have kept the boat that way during all 4 months.If you get behind you are lost.
All little repairs done.
NOTHING TO DO ?!?!
I feel a bit lost. I am not accustomed to the feeling, this luxurious feeling. All my life I have been under time pressure, always having more to do than time available for it. And if not things to do for “now” then I am thinking, preparing,scheduling and making lists and notes for things to do later. I watch TV maybe 3 hours in a year. My mind wanders off when people start talking and talk a bit much. I see their lips move but soon I am in my own world and can walk away to make some notes for later. I come back and politely say : “ahhh” , “yes”, “ahummmm” or “most interesting”, having no idea what the person was babbling about.
I am always under time pressure, I am always late, I always have way too much to-do.
In my head the song of the Stones comes up : ” Time is on My Side ”
I sit in one of the light weight carbon bucket seats in the cockpit and my mind wanders off further, in a way I never let it.The boat is on an easy broad reaching course on -still- flat seas under the shield of the High. Nice easy medium wind.
I relax so much that I fall asleep. Luckily I have routinely fastened my seat belt: I wake up hanging in it.Otherwise I could have broken my teeth on a winch.
The Vendee globe is weird. Extreme. From 100+ days constant 24/24 stress and vigilance even when asleep to total relaxation. What a weird experience.What an adventure. What a voyage of (self)discovery.
The VG is too much, too deep, too emotional, too tough, too subtle, too painful, too, too, too, to find words for it.
Probably only those that have gone through the ordeal understand.
Words are too weak, too inflated to express what the VG entails. Only living such extremeties makes one understand.
Surely that is why VG skippers don’t talk so much, they just nod and smile faintly with a far-away look in the eyes.
Their experiences are in their heads, not in their words.
I re-read this article and smile: will I ever be normal (again) ?