UPDATE DAY 22: DUTY OFFICER REPORT

From Race Duty Officer Lee Fudge:
Day 22, 4th of January. As the crews approach the start of their 4th week at sea, most have been struggling through almost a week of light, confused winds. This weather has had a different effect on the rowers depending on boat design, crew size and geographical location with the boats at the front of the race experiencing more helpful conditions and those at the back being frustrated by low wind speed and unwanted wind direction. On top of that, all of the boats have been experiencing waves from the north resulting in difficult rowing conditions with the sea on the boats’ beam. These light winds have also been the reason for most of the fleet having been enveloped in the surreal haze brought about when the Saharan sand carried in the Calima winds was dropped over most of the boats. [ Carlisle Crew note:  to see the impact of the dust, click here ].  This has meant that many boats were unable to get a full charge from their solar panels to top up their batteries, which has prolonged power problems across almost all of the fleet.
 The continuing power issues mean that many boats are having to steer by hand, which is slowing them down. Additionally, they are concerned about making water – the biggest drain on power of any system on the boat. Most crews are managing power very carefully and considering what systems to sacrifice to best manage battery charge while some are considering hand-pumping their water with the back-up watermaker. As well as this, there are problems with autohelms and GPS systems forcing rowers to work with their back-up systems and some satellite phones have started to malfunction. Fortunately for the crews, back-up and redundant systems and equipment are a mandatory requirement so every boat is managing.
They are starting to see the winds become more easterly and increase in strength and the Calima sand haze has now been left behind but pressure systems approaching boats in the north may see them challenged by strong headwinds while boats that have avoided this are having to maintain a delicate navigation plan to avoid being pushed too far south. With higher winds forecast, recent fixes to rudder and steering systems will be tested and proactive solutions to potential problems are being worked on by crews, Atlantic Campaigns, Support Vessels and suppliers and boat builders in the UK and US.
As ever, there’s always someone waiting if they want to call for any reason. We’ve spoken to every crew over the last week and everyone sounds to be in good spirits with their eyes on the goal. The social media posts are often a helpful indicator of a crew’s morale or of a potential issue so thank you and keep posting!

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