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Sailing downwind with all Studding sails set in the Fore Mast

The Pacific Ocean. A convergence of many of the stories that shaped society and colonial and economic empires, and which aided the understanding of the world and the development of science. An ocean and an era of discoveries, an age of sail, that brought new findings on the earth’s physiography, oceanography, biology, and geology. Some of the expeditions in its waters and a myriad of inhabited islands settled as well the bases for anthropology and ethnology. 

A key ocean for the history of World commerce.  

The Spanish foothold lasted over two centuries on the transpacific trade since 1565 when Andres de Urdaneta found a maritime route across the Pacific from the colonies in the Philippines to what is now Mexico, together with the Spanish control of the Magellan Straits maritime traffic. 

An ocean that witnessed the development of the Dutch East India Company, considered the first multinational trading corporation founded in the early 17th century. In the same period, Schouten and Lemaire embarked on a voyage in an attempt to dodge Spanish and Dutch taxes over commercial routes that crossed the Pacific. An enterprise that brought them to discover the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans south of where any other ship had ventured. Like that they were the first navigators to round Cape Horn in 1615, and planted the seed for a whole new trading route between the Pacific coast of the Americas and Europe.  

An Ocean that represented too the gateway for the exploration in search of the mythical Terra Incognita Australis, which brought Abel Tasman between 1642 and 1644 to be the first European to set foot in New Zealand, Fiji and Tasmania.  

In the same quest to find Antarctica, to contribute to the advance of knowledge and science and later on in search of yet another of the mythical areas in the world (the Northeast and Northwest passages), about a century later the legendary Captain Cook set sail as well to the Pacific several times between the 1768 and 1779. His discoveries, new ideas and clear mind together with the scientists and naturalists on board, gave us the first notions of the native colonization of Polynesia all the way to Easter Island, their sailing methods, and the collection of thousands of until then unknown flora and fauna specimens. Their findings became the bedrock under the future development of anthropology, and ethnology and set the first concerns of the impact that European colonization and development would have on the local communities. Cook also opened the gate for the British colonization of Australia.  

In 1722, on Easter Sunday, Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen became the first European to visit the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui. Starting to unveil its mysteries, some of them remaining an unsolved riddle even nowadays. 

Along the Pacific South American coastline, Alexander von Humboldt found out one of the most significant oceanic currents and its rich cold waters. A finding that led to the development of the important Peruvian and Chilean Fishing Industry, and helped understand the circulation of the Pacific Ocean. Its currents along a large gyre and its calmer centers, nowadays a sort of collector of human-generated debris thrown into the seas. Gyres exist both north and south of the equator in the Atlantic and Pacific plus the Indian Ocean. In all of them we can find garbage patches.  

The research conducted during the Europa trip across the South Pacific intends to contribute and help to understand this accumulation of plastics in the Ocean over this vast area of the world. 

Until now, the sailing conditions have allowed us to follow a plan of samplings that take place every three days, and so far we can see the changes and increase of the plastic concentration, together with the changes in the diversity and amount of zooplankton collected in the nets, all along the 1658nm sailed since we left the bay of Talcahuano.  

685nm ahead, our destination. A distance to cover that will bring wind shifts and stronger blows, different sailing conditions, and more sail handling as a low-pressure system approaches that is forecasted to pass over Easter Island. 

But so far, hot sunny weather, calm seas and backing light winds have been today’s treat. A steady easterly breeze blows at about 10kn. The steering is almost downwind over a sea where just a gentle long swell runs. A situation demanding for more canvas. A good day to increase our sailing area forward and drop some of the staysails that just can’t take the winds from the aft and flap around.  

Two by sunrise, and another one joins before the morning coffee time. It is time now to rig all the studding-sail gear on starboard side as well. Two more are hoisted there before lunch. Right afterwards follow the third one. From then on, six studding sails rigged in the fore mast catch the breeze for the rest of the day and stay set during the first part of a peaceful night too. They help to keep an average of almost 5kn of speed, making for 122nm sailed during the last day. Later on, the wind backing to a north-easterly makes for first dropping the three portside studding sails, and for a while keeping the watch busy on deck rearranging sails and yards to these new conditions. 

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