Eric Pequeno blijft zijn verslagen van de HTC Atlantic Kite Challenge consequent online zetten zodat wij het HTC Team nauwlettend kunnen volgen. Deze update is van 5 december, toen de Challenge ongeveer halverwege was. Houd voor alle verslagen de website van Enable Passion in de gaten.

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The team continued throughout the night, with close watch on the storms around. We were gaining very close to the halfway point of our goal, 6000 km’s. Ike was up after Filippo and again had complete trust in Captain Erik’s assessment of the weather system. Ike loves the night sessions as they really push you to your max to show you what you are capable of. He says “Every time I get in the dinghy at night I think, what am I doing going out in this. But when you see the other rider coming in from their two hours, you say to your self I can do this too, and once you’re out its all fun again, Woohoo! Tonight the lightning was just an added bonus to the experience”.

Max was up next and was not quite as lucky at having the weather stay at a distance. A big black squall came in, that was so dark in the sky it was visible as it approached in the middle of the night. To make matter worse the batteries in the light in the kite were beginning to fade, causing much less visibility, and there was no telling how much longer the light would last at all. Erik came up on deck to assess the situation and gave the OK to continue, as the storm appeared to hopefully only be rain.

As the squall hit, the wind picked up an additional 10kts, and began to pour rain all over Max and the sailors. Considering the rider change procedures add additional risk, Max offered to ride out the storm as it didn’t feel right to him to send Camilla out in the middle of it, however she wanted out and so they did the switch, mid squall, pouring rain, in 20+ kts.  By the time Camilla had the kite, the light in the kite had gone completely out, causing her to have to ride the last hour of the night without any light whatsoever before the sunrise. How beautiful the sun was seeing it at first light as the squall faded out. “ I felt like my shoulders dropped 5cm” she said.

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Up next, Dennis had a great session with perfect 19 kt wind to start the day. The skies continued to clear, as Dennis was again rewarded by mother nature. Must be good karma for putting so much love and attention into the meals for everyone on board. On my very first tack, as I took the exchange from Dennis, and began to kite away from the yacht, I saw something big and grey swimming below me. Having plenty of power in the kite, I had no fear of getting right on top of it to see what it is. The sun was now shining, and all of the sudden I saw the wings of the 2m wide Manta Ray swoop up. I shot just downwind of it, looking back to see its big scoop coming to the surface of the water. So amazing to have all this open water, and yet get to see so much amazing wildlife.

Filippo followed with another great session, and dedicated every bit of it to Sander Meijers for his birthday. The day stayed clear from there until evening when once again it was near time for Max and Camilla to make their switch and some more lightning approached. We also needed to do a kite change to get some fresh lights up, as the 14m Rally had been in the air non stop for well over 24 hours now, and all of the batteries were exhausted. We intended to launch Camilla separately, before landing Max so the two of them could have some time to play on the water together. Captain Erik who seems to have an endless skill set, began stitching in custom holders into the leading edge of the kite so the lights will stay in place secured much easier.

We have needed to make numerous improvisations along the way, and in this case, our burn rate with losing lights has been too high. The time it took making these preparations, had already caused Max to be out for over 2 hours and 45 minutes! Combined with uncertain weather approaching, and running out of daylight, we made the call get Max in before launching Camilla out into the sunset. Max has no doubt been a speed racer the entire crossing, but with the extra time this session, set a new record of over 80km nonstop!

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As Camilla got the very end of the sunset, and began to ride into the night, she was in store for a session she would never forget. The wind was blowing a steady 20-25kts while she was out with a 14m. Along side a bright shining Venus, the beginning of a new moon was beginning to show its face in the early night hours, toped off by consistent lightning in the distance, and what could only be described as a fireball of a shooting star, as it made a huge slow streak of light through the sky leaving a long shining tail! We heard over the VHF, “I don’t understand why I would ever want to climb Mt Everest, when its so crowded. This is way more fun being out here having this beauty all to yourself” When she came in, disappointed to fall just 7km short of the halfway 3000k mark, she was still thrilled to have just had such an experience. “ There were a few times I went airborne and thought, shouldn’t I have water under my feet right now. I guess it will get back there eventually”. Tonight moving forward we went on a straight downwind angle to avoid the storms. Captain Erik felt this would be our best course to stay in the wind, and avoid as much severe weather as possible.

As Dennis took to the water, everyone of us had a bit of jealousy as he sounded more enthusiastic than ever over the VHF to cross the halfway point and reach over 3000km so far. “ This Tyrant is so smooth, it feels more like snowboarding than kiting” as the angle provided the smoothest ride ever downwind with the waves. With 20kts of wind, he had what he described as “the best session yet”. As I suited up to get in the water, I was very excited hearing Dennis’s read of the conditions. However on my very first tack out from the Double A, a large streak of lightning came across the sky straight ahead of me. I immediately asked over the VHF “That seemed awful close, you guy are keeping a good eye on this right?” The team checked with Captain Erik, and he confirmed the lightning was very high in the clouds, and shooting horizontal. Not like the type that will come down vertically and pose a threat to us on the water, and so it was safe to continue. From an earlier conversation with Captain Erik, I know he feels a lot of responsibility when making decisions like this for us. Although in his words, “ I am confident, and happy to use my expertise and experience to get you through this challenge safely”. However he can feel it weigh on him. Dealing with weather like this you can never be 100% sure of exactly how mother nature will react. “The lightning has to begin somewhere” The extra stress of going through tough situations can show through the following day, with feeling additionally tired or wore down. “All part of being in a challenge like this” the Captain says with a smile.

Everyone on board is very thankful for the confidence Erik Van Vuuren brings to the entire mission, but especially in these most challenging moments. Out on the water, Dennis couldn’t have said it better. The feeling of riding down the face of the large ocean swell, in the complete darkness, with flashes of lightning in the distance, was exactly what I had been imagining this trip to be like since I first envisioned it. The beauty of the Atlantic amazes me in new ways everyday, and night.