How do you navigate across the Atlantic Ocean?
It’s a frequently asked question by those new to the sport. In simple terms the crews have a GPS unit which provides the rowers with a bearing (direction) to row in. But the crews aren’t just heading directly towards Barbados. The weather patterns are such that there is a benefit (more likely to be following winds) if the crews can get south as soon as possible. If they head due south from the start, then the total distance covered would be significantly more than a crow flight. (This would be some sort of albatross/crow cross breed but I digress). So to help find the middle path the crews have selected multiple waypoints. The crew aim to get within a hundred miles, or so, of a waypoint before pointing towards the next one. Waypoints are suggestive. They’re not designed to be hard and fast or unbreakable. The only exception to this is on approach to Barbados where precision of your position on arrival can be the difference between arriving into port, being blown to the next island in the West Indies or being rolled in the surf break.
Cockleshell Endeavour do things a little differently. As we’ve said before their course has been ruthlessly accurate and straight. I’ve actually been using their course on my computer screen to check how straight my ruler is. And then yesterday something happened. Suddenly the crew must have kit their waypoint and instantly changed course towards their next waypoint. It’s incredible to watch and I’ve never seen a crew with such incredible dedication to going straight.
The weather over the next few days may test the crews’ ability to hold their course. The wind is due to decrease but also to swing around to come from the south for the next two days. After this is should fill in from the east again and normal service will be resumed.
For the moment though it seems as though Atlantic Dagger are pressing on a bit further south before making their turn towards Barbados. They’re hunting out the illusive trade winds which are being somewhat fickle this year. If there is anything which ocean rowing has taught us, it is that there is always change. What was the case yesterday will not be the same tomorrow. Although there is always the universal truth that the crew are about to have a new year’s party that they will never forget.