THE CAT IN THE HAT

In the Dr Seuss story the Cat in the Hat madly juggles multiple items while consistently persuading the children to do things they really do not want to do. This is the role of the navigator in ocean racing.

In our case that is the inimitable Professor Hugh Agnew, Master of Meteorology, the Oracle of the Ocean.

Really quite humble, he runs a tight program with very few demands; we simply have to genuflect at the nav station as we come off watch before we can take off our wet weather gear. He generally speaks only to helmsman and bowmen, the rest can give a nod but never have direct eye contact. I felt quite honored, he told me only yesterday I could call him Hugh, no longer being required to call him Sir Hugh.

In all seriousness, he has called all the shifts, weather and wind strength with amazing alacrity, culminating in the timing of the gybe decision today. You can imagine that if we have never tacked since just off the start line, the timing of the gybe gathers a fair bit of discussion, particularly with changing wind conditions on the horizon.

While we think little of a gybe itself normally, but with 25 knots a breeze, even minimal seas there are plenty of pressures on the boat. But with prep, care and communication, we have turned for England, albeit 1,000 miles away.

Below decks the change takes place as well, as we all switch bunks, sleeping bags and belongings from starboard to port and reorient ourselves. The transition turns up a few errant socks, T shirts, etc. Rapid fumigation or burial at sea being the only viable options for those that are found.

At long last the fog has lifted and even a star seen on watch tonight, progress is made—of course all due to our Cat in the Hat!

Clarke Murphy, Skipper


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