Growing Concerns for the Atlantic Challenge Rowers

11 01 2016

Dale C. S. Destin |

Concerns are growing for Team Wadadli (or Team Antigua) and the rest of the rowers participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Marine conditions are expected to become extremely unfavourable, if not exceptionally dangerous for the seafarers.

Tweet of concern

Tweet of concern

By now, you may have heard of the very powerful extratropical low pressure system that could transition into the first tropical cyclone (generic term for tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) over the Atlantic in January since 1978.

Extratropical cyclone with centre marked by X, next to the red L. 0600 UTC, Jan 11, 2016 Surface Chart

Extratropical cyclone with centre marked by X, next to the red L. 0600 UTC, Jan 11, 2016 Surface Chart

Transition or not, the low/tropical cyclone is expected to generate across the paths of many of the rowers, ginormous seas, possibly reaching six metres (20 feet) and sustained storm force winds (greater than 34 knots/39 mph). Such severe marine conditions will easily cause boats to capsize and be injurious the occupants, if not worse.

Wave Height (ft), Valid Tue, Jan 11, 2016, Issued Jan 11 at 6 AM AST

Wave Height (ft), Valid Tue, Jan 11, 2016, Issued Jan 11 at 6 AM AST. The box at the top right indicates the seas Team Wadadli and many others could face tomorrow.

Wind Speed (kt), Valid Tue, Jan 11, 2016, Issued Jan 11 at 6 AM AST

Wind Speed (kt), Valid Tue, Jan 11, 2016, Issued Jan 11 at 6 AM AST. The box at the top right indicates the winds Team Wadadli and many other could face tomorrow.

Additionally, unfriendly winds and currents will stop, if not push rowers backwards, towards the starting point instead of the finish line – Antigua. Initially, the unfavourable winds will come from the south, then the west and then north over the next few days in the vicinity of the racers.

Last night, Team Wadadli was forced to “drop” its sea anchor as they were being push towards the bad weather by southerly winds. They also reported that the seas were building. It is not clear how long they will stay in “anchorage”. However, this strategy (of which there are very few) may not be the best for the situation.

tweet from team wadadli

Note that a sea-anchor also known as a drift anchor does not stop a boat from moving, it just slows and stabilizes it in heavy weather. The Race Tracker shows that Team Wadadli, as of 8 am this morning, was still moving towards the bad weather at 1.4 knots (1.6 mph), perhaps on a collision course with what could become Tropical Storm Alex, which is also moving towards them.

Tracker showing the locations and progress of the boats as of 8 am this morning

Tracker showing the locations and progress of the boats as of 8 am this morning

The Tracker also showed many, if not all of the boats were in a similar situation.

If Team Wadadli remains drift anchored, instead of finding away to get out of the southerly flow (drifting from south to north), they could find themselves in a lot of trouble along with many of their competitors.

By my projections, in the next 24 hours, Team Wadadli, could find itself well northeast of its current position, heading out over the North Atlantic, in seas over 4.5 metres (15 feet) and winds greater than 28 knots (32 mph). Of even greater concern is that they could get caught up in the southwesterly winds (winds blowing from the southwest) and move northeast with the bad weather for several days.

Other teams, especially those that are east of longitude 35 degrees west, could suffer a similar fate.

I don’t know what’s the organizer’s criteria for the race to be suspended or cancelled but conditions must be getting pretty close to meeting them.

The low/tropical cyclone will severely affect this year’s edition of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. If the rowers were up for a challenge, the upcoming days will fulfil their desire. Let’s hope they come out of it in flying colours with a heck of a story to tell.

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One response

11 01 2016
MARTHA WATKINS GILKES

THIS IS VERY ALARMING TO READ AND TO THINK OF OUR SPECIAL ANTIGUA GUYS IN HARMS WAY.

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