Transatlantic frequent-sailor Greta Thunberg speeding at 27mph towards Lisbon

Interactive Greta Tracker & Trans-Atlantic Crossing Hourly Log – blog embedded app

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Really Fast Sailing

After a windy and rough start, transatlantic frequent-non-flyer-sailor Greta Thunberg is now speeding along at up to 23.6 knots – or 27 mph / 44 kmph in non-sailing speak. That’s an astonishing speed for a family cruising boat. Even more amazing considering La Vagabonde is a live-aboard home for Riley and Elayna as well as being baby Lenny’s floating nursery. A typical sailing boat usually cruises at 4 to 6 knots, with 7 knots often considered as really fast. 23.6 knots would have been La Vagabonde’s short-term peak speed, but they have also averaged around 10 knots constantly for the last three days – which is superb progress.

Satellite phone image – La Vagabonde, north-east Atlantic heading east 1st December 2019

Who needs sleep? – racing through the night

Even quite expert sailors have been admiring the fact that La Vagabonde has maintained a healthy speed even during the difficult rough weather in the first half of the crossing. The Dashboard page on my tracker app shows that they have maintained a daily average speed of over 6 knots every day except Day 7 (5.3 knots). But now they are really racing towards Lisbon. Take a look at the chart from my Dashboard below. The dots show the average speed for each of the 24 hours for each of the 18 days so far. The past three days have had super-fast speeds every single hour of the day. That is very hard to do in the dark at night with a very short-handed crew. Superb sailing skills! I believe that Nikki and Riley stay up throughout the nights to sail the boat and keep watch for shipping etc. They will probably sleep for a week when they get to Lisbon – they must be exhausted.

La Vagabonde Daily Speed Trend (knots) – 13th to 30th November

Floating family home complete with house plants.

Nikki Henderson, is an English record-breaking professional yachtswoman who joined the crew at short notice. She has been writing beautifully evocative daily Facebook updates during the crossing. Nikki recently commented that sailing on a boat complete with “house plants” was a career-first for her. Her day-job when she isn’t ferrying famous climate activists to UN conferences is skippering stripped-out lightweight racing yachts around the world.

Most of La Vagabonde’s November 2019 Transat crew

Will Greta arrive in time for COP25?

My home-made Greta-Tracker indicates that it’s looking very good for Greta to get to the UN COP25 conference in Madrid – especially the important second week when the world’s leaders arrive. It’s increasingly looking like they will arrive in Lisbon around Tuesday next week.

However, as skipper Riley notes in his recent post, you can never take the sea for granted, so the only accurate ETA is after they have tied up the mooring ropes in Lisbon.

COP25 Chile (Host) – UN Climate Change Conference – Madrid (Venue) December 2019

Will they use La Vagabonde’s diesel engines?

The tracker route shows that La Vagabonde has often changed course during the crossing to avoid areas of very strong or light winds. That’s possible mid-ocean, but if the winds are light nearer Lisbon, they will have to sail through these to get to port. I’m fairly sure that they won’t use the diesel engines, even if that meant Greta being late for the UN conference.

They will have to use the engines for a few unavoidable minutes to tie-up in the marina for safety reasons. Before expensive marinas, we used to moor up to a buoy floating in the harbour quite easily under sail and then row ashore in a dinghy – not an engine in sight. But space is very tight in most modern marinas, so unless you want a huge bill for damage it’s not possible to sail in. The space is similar to a car park – but it’s a lot harder parking a boat because of wind pressure on the hull and mast and tide. Tide is like trying to reverse into the space but the whole road is moving sideways at the same time. Nonetheless any hint of an engine will probably trigger the usual immature bleats of “hypocrisy” from the trolls. The good news is that La Vagabonde appears to have some time in hand to deal with most eventualities now.

At the time of writing (Sunday 08:00 GMT) there is currently plenty of wind just outside the Port of Lisbon – a brisk Force 7. That’s a bit too much wind for comfort, but they’ve already dealt with far worse on the crossing.

Force 7 wind outside Lisbon – Sunday 08:00 UTC

However, as it appears is always the case – just when you want to get into port, the wind dies. La Vagabonde is currently due to reach Lisbon on Tuesday morning UTC. This is the chart for Tuesday noon UTC – very light winds on their route to Lisbon – Force 2 or less. Hopefully at their current speed, they may just make port just before the wind dies – possibly in the small hours of Tuesday morning.

Force 2 winds enroute to Lisbon – Tuesday noon UTC

Greta Tracker added features

I created the tracker and detailed passage app seven days ago, as there was no detailed information on the web. Since then, thousands of people in over 60 countries have been using it to track “Greta and friends” progress on this historic voyage. Sailors have also been studying La Vagabonde’s performance and navigation stats – especially in Holland for some reason. Viewing the detailed information and using the interactive functions is easier on a PC. I’ve also tried to make it reasonably viewable on a phone as well. It looks like about 30% of users are accessing it with a mobile phone. So, as the crossing nears its completion, I’ve created a “Quick Glance” landing page. I should make it easier to quickly refresh the phone view just to see the latest ETA in Lisbon.

Greta Tracker Quick Glance

Nearing Lisbon

One of the nicest things about sailing on a long passage is the first view of land after days of ocean horizons. Although Greta and friends won’t be able to see Portugal yet, I thought it was time to change the landing view of my map-tracker. It now shows the approaches to sunny Lisbon rather the chilly mid-Atlantic view. As Riley recently alluded to, thoughts of warm baths and changing out of salt-crusted damp clothes come to mind. I’ve coded it so that the pictures disappear as soon as you start interacting with the map or route track.

Greta Lisbon Tracker

Can’t wait for the stunningly edited Sailing La Vagabonde videos next month

Greta’s taxi-drivers to the UN conference are Riley and Elayna, an Australian couple who have been filming their world sailing adventures on YouTube since 2014. Baby Lenny has joined them for the past year. His first birthday party was possibly going to be in the north-eastern Atlantic on 6th December. It’s now looking like it will be in a solid-ground Lisbon tapas-bar. I’d enjoy either venue. Their YouTube videos are very professionally shot and edited resulting in the channel being sailing’s premier vbloggers with over 1 million subscribers. Despite being a keen sailor, I hadn’t heard of them before. Hopefully, if they could manage filming during this fairly rough weather crossing, there should be some great videos in the next few months.

Outremer 45: La Vagabonde, Elayna Carausu, Riley Whitelum and son Lenny

About Me – um……err……

Apparently in blogs, the author should introduce and talk about themselves a little. I only created this blog (my first ever) to host the Greta-Tracker. My initial “About Us” page said “59-year-old guy from England”, which one Swedish Facebook user thought was amusing. Last night I took a major step and added “I’m Andy Pritchard”. Despite being tech-savvy, I’ve never been interested in social-media. It seemed narcissistic to me to believe that other people were interested in what I ate for breakfast. I have wanted to blog as I have a lot of interests and areas of knowledge that I’d hope would be useful to others. It looks like blogging and social-media go hand-in-hand. I think that I will have up my game on twitter and Facebook etc. Who knows? – I might even expand my current nine-word “About Me” entry.

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