Oman Sail

“Gelane, Your Move”

Hurricane Gelane on the backfoot, reports Mark Covell from the Indian Ocean

Sunday February 21st 2010, Author: Mark Covell, Location: none selected

Like a cautious chess player, we have just played our first pawn. Commanders' Weather routing, has suggested a move out of the holding pattern and an advance gingerly to a waypoint just under 200nm from us 14ºS 17ºE.

The good news is that Hurricane Gelane is starting to calm down and retreat south. In fact, she’s even been downgraded to a Tropical Storm. However, we must still keep our distance and not get drawn in to a battle. There are other cells forming and we need to keep our wits about us. The sea state in the area will be very aggressive and Gelane is still puffing and panting like a teenager on a ‘bad hair’ day.

So, at daybreak the first watch rolled out a headsail, that would actually do something instead of just stopping us from going into ‘irons’ [a situation when the boat points directly into the wind and stops). Having had the air brakes on, the second we wanted to get the throttle down, the clouds formed and down came the rain. We picked our way through the dark statues of water torrents. Some had wind under them, and some had none - but they all had serious rain!

We all took the opportunity to wash in nature’s shower. Mohsin is proving the joker in the crew. He filled a bucket from the waterfall coming off the mainsail - and threw it at me the second I looked round from the cabin hatch. He’s only five foot nothing and I’m six foot something - so that makes him the most fearless man on board!

Now we are making a move towards the storm, Mohammed is still very concerned with what lies ahead of him. I haven’t been at sea in winds over 50 knots so I can’t tell him what to expect - but at least I have a good idea what it may be like. Mohammed knows he should be worried, but his faith and trust in this boat and this crew lifts him up. There is genuine fear in his eyes - but also complete peace at the same time.

The amazing thing about the Oman Sail Project is that it’s taking young Omanis so far out of their comfort zone, that their base view on just what can be achieved is being knocked out of the park. Seeing Mohammed go through this experience, my view of what can be achieved is also being hit for six.

So now the waves are building and the wind is starting to whistle as we draw near to checkmate. Will our little pawn continue moving forward on each new waypoint or will we find our game in retreat? “Gelane, your move”…..

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