Wednesday, December 29, 2010


2011! Wow, are you kidding?? That makes me really middle aged. I thought that would never happen, but bring it on! I have the distinct pleasure of ringing in the New Year in the middle of nowhere with no champagne, no woman to kiss at midnight, no ball dropping and nobody to sing that "old acquaintance be forgot" song that must be sung in unison annually. Instead, I will be pondering the meaning of life in what is forecast to be a moderate Southern Ocean sailing experience with all my Southern Ocean friends.

What will I do for New Year's 2011?

First, Le Pingouin (LP) and I will have a chat as she has a lot to say about being middle aged. Boats live in dog years.? It is about seven years to one human year so she actually just broke through 60 years old. She also has more circumnavigations under her voluminous brazier than I do. She has done this race twice before and the Vendee globe twice as well, so this is her 5th solo circumnavigation race while it is my 3rd. It is quite amazing to think that she had more than 150,000 miles in global racing mileage before we even started this adventure. The ole girl is still one of the fastest monohulls ever conceived. Combined LP and I have spent more than a year of our lives hanging out down here in the most remote place on Earth. I still feel hardly welcome and am a strong advocate for the "tread lightly and garner safe passage" theory to get through this inhospitable but beautiful place.

Following my chat with LP, I will speak with the animals that constantly escort me along my route. The birds here are fantastic. They seem so fragile as they fly in circles around the boat and flitter about in the wake of LP as we charge along. Regardless of the weather they are always there and seem genuinely interested in why I would be asking for permission to transit their private place on Earth. The flock of birds I constantly encounter represent as many different sizes and shapes as the fleet of aircraft man has built, and they look their part. The Albatross look like B52 bombers with huge glider shaped wings and robust torsos as they fly forever while seemingly never flapping their wings. On the other end of the spectrum are the petrels which are like little compact fighter jets that zip around and jet through the waves, flapping their wings to give them super speed like they are using an afterburner.

Finally on this special transition to 2011, I will speak to the things that I hopefully won't see. This includes the whales (of which I have only seen one since leaving Cape Town) and the icebergs which harbor so much of our world's ecosystem in their frigid existence.

The primary message that I will try to convey to this watery world as we enter 2011 is an apology. I'd like to be an "eyes wide open" witness to the impact our human existence has on this place. Maybe I am a lone ambassador of sorts? As I write this I am sailing in 9 degree Celsius water in a place that should have far cooler water temperature. I am sailing deliberately further north than ever before because the Antarctic convergence (ice zone) is hundreds of miles further north than when I first sailed the Southern Ocean in 1998. The birds are far less in numbers than I have ever experienced, and the whales... well, we all know that story. My message will be a hollow New Year's apology because I need to be honest with my friends down here. There is really nothing being done that will change the tide of globalization and human growth. We can hope that the pioneers of sustainability and green energy will be rewarded for tangible results. We can hope that rather than a typical New Year's resolution that is a lot of promise and little movement, that maybe the human population of our fragile home will put some action behind the rhetoric.

I don't pretend to know how much we affect this place through our actions and I am a firm believer that cyclic global temperatures are a natural weather occurrence, so I don't wish to be tied up in the politics of it all. I just speak of plane facts that we know we can change. The whales are gone because we kill them for food and resources we no longer need. The bird population is off because we kill them with bad fishing practices and by throwing trash in the water that they eat. This planet is 70% covered in water. The life and delicate balance that water provides is the brine from which all known life came. Can you imagine if that balance is upset? Water can take the life away just as easily, and in a much shorter time, than it was given. The oceans provide every ounce of water we drink. If the ice caps were to melt (which they are) the vast majority of the world's cities will become submerged. The sun and water are the two things that make every weather anomaly occur.

For crying out loud, the human body is something like 80% water isn't it? We better start taking care of our oceans or they aren't going to be here to take care of us.

This will be the somber but special New Year's message I will share with my friends in the Southern Ocean. It will be a very "glass is half full" conclusion, basically stating that mankind is good and wants to continue to exist, and that we will do as a race what we have to do to survive.

Happy New Year's and may you all take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the natural world in 2011.


Looking Aft

Looking Forward

Video Footage of 46 South

Howdy All,
I hope you're all getting ready to ring in the New Year! I've collected some pretty good video of Le Pingouin and I haulin' ass in the Southern Ocean. Enjoy!

More news soon. Thanks for checking in,


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Southern Ocean Sailing At Last

The weather has not been kind to us since the Leg 2 restart in Cape Town. It has been a very slow and arduous journey thus far. Sailing one of these boats upwind is difficult and uncomfortable. It puts a lot of strain on the boat and I know I was not the only competitor out here concerned about the conditions taking someone out of the race. I am happy to say that with Christmas here, the tides have changed. I am FINALLY sailing downwind in north-westerly winds. It is a welcome Christmas treat! I have about 20-25 knots and we are hootin’ along feeling like the boat is happy and well prepared for the conditions. With that happy news, I also realize that this is one of the most remote and dangerous areas of the race.

This week marks the most remote piece of Leg 2 from Cape Town to Wellington, New Zealand. It is daunting as there is no place to stop and no one to help should I run into trouble. Countless sailors have faced adversity in this area over the years, most recently Bernard Stamm who ended up running aground on a beach in the Kerguelen Islands during the Vendee Globe race and the young teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who was rescued earlier this year. The weather can be so violent, it is definitely a place to tread lightly. In saying that, this is also a race. My mission is to get through it safely without being too conservative. I don’t want to compromise the lead now that I have taken it back from Gutek! He made some very good tactical decisions early on, and dove south of me to take the lead. I don’t think he ended up being very comfortable at 45 South, when there have been recent iceberg sightings at 46 South.
The unusual warm weather of the first 5 days at sea has changed dramatically to a bitter cold. One of my compromises to save on weight aboard was to go without a heater. Bad call! I am cold, and I expect I will be cold for the remainder of Leg 2 until I see the promising sight of New Zealand’s summer coast. Thanks goodness I am fully outfitted with Gill apparel. The layers are great and closures are keeping me dry even in the extreme conditions on deck. If you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas, you should treat yourself at
I realized after doing a bit of old school math, that I have spent 25% of the last 10 years at sea for Christmas. It never seemed this hard, and it is clearly more difficult now because I feel like I am missing precious time with my children. Christmas without children just simply sucks! I did get to chat with them via satellite phone and can’t wait to see them in New Zealand.
Merry Christmas to all and please keep the wind coming strong from the right direction!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Emotional Funk and Unexpected Weather

My emotions have been running high after having to gear up for the original start date, then down for the delay, then back up for the start yesterday. It began what has been the oddest combination of variables for the start of a leg that I can remember. I have been very emotional compared to the start in France. I am apprehensive about going back down to the big noise in the south and I miss my wife, Meaghan, and my children very much… which has led to a bit of an emotional funk.

It didn't help at all when Tate, Wyatt and I all had to wish each other Merry Christmas on the dock as I left on December 16th! It is one thing to wish Meaghan as a grown up Merry Christmas; but missing the kid’s Christmas is making tears well in my eyes even as I write this.
So we were finally able to escape South Africa in a weather window that wasn't guaranteed carnage, yet it was still South Africa. Talk about “Full Noise or No Noise,” our team’s motto! The fleet starts in light fluky up and down breeze in Table Bay and by the time we get ten miles offshore, BAM, the forecast shows 15 knots of wind on the nose and is blowing 30+ knots instead. This lends more justification for holding the race start off when they were forecasting 40+.
Then it goes light! Very light. And now Derek, Gutek and myself are all drifting along in sight of each other coxing what we can out of 2-6 knots of breeze for the last 18 hours or so. This too is very odd. The Aghulas Current is a warm water current that wraps around Africa and really makes the entrance to the Southern Ocean a warm paradise for sea life. I have only seen this place sailing at full speed like most people; but wow is it different when you’re going 3 knots. I have had yellowtail swimming in the shadow of the boat, weird eddies of swirling debris, jelly fish everywhere, flying fish and 23 degree Celsius water temps.
Is this the calm before the storm? All the above is happening while I struggle to work my way south to the frozen sea scape of the Southern Ocean which is only a mere couple hundred miles from here. Like I said… weird! Hopefully all of this is a good omen that will deliver a good Christmas experience and the South will allow our fleet safe passage!
Regards and Happy Holidays to all,


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Upwind in Lots of Wind

After the a morning of very light wind making our way out of the shadow of Table Mountain, everything changed and now I am bashing upwind in 25-35 knots of wind. It has been about 5 hours of this, and I am hoping the fleet makes it through this unscathed. I have a 3rd reef in the mainsail and the staysail up for now. Going from the docks and mellow start into these conditions is intense to say the least. Le Pingouin seems to be taking the punishment well. I am certain the delayed start was a good idea, as I can’t imagine what this run would have been like a few days ago. It is supposed to lighten up and I may be parked Fri-Sunday, which will be equally frustrating. I am anxious to head east! Thanks for checking in.


The Start at Last

The forecast was disappointing and it became obvious quickly that starting Leg 2 of the VELUX 5 OCEANS on Sunday, December 12, was going to be dangerous. Severe weather conditions at the Cape of Good Hope and in the Agulhas Current would bring damage to my boat or others. I find it a difficult place to be. I’m ready to go. The boat is ready. It has been strange being geared up and ready to go and not being able to take off. I’ve been trying to stay in the groove and remain mentally fired up to start, especially considering it is a leg of the race that will send us into heavy weather. I’ve been waiting for the word from race admin to go and it finally is here today.

It appears we will have light conditions. It is no secret that the entire fleet will aim to get south as quickly as possible. I look forward to hitting the westerly winds that prevail in the Southern Ocean. The extended forecast looks pretty good for the first week with consistent westerlies. The huge storm that prevented our original start last weekend has moved off now to the west leaving mellow conditions for the next few days.

One of the nice things about the delay in starting out of Cape Town is that I got to see the wedding of Jeffrey Wargo, my Project Manager and friend, who tied the knot yesterday in the winelands of Stellenbosch. Congrats to Jeffrey and Lizzie!

Stay tuned for more news as I leave the dock and sail south. Cheers,


Monday, December 6, 2010

A Look Back Before I Look Ahead

I have some good stories to tell you about my time in South Africa, but before we go there I thought a brief recap of Leg 1 from La Rochelle, France to Cape Town, South Africa might be of interest. My wife Meaghan posed these questions to me, in her best attempt to egg-on my communications of the lifestyle aboard an Open-60 alone at sea for 28 days. Here goes…

Best Moment?
The start and finish

Worst Moment?
The start and finish

My answer to these questions comes for different reasons. The start in France was amazing and a big “wow” moment for sure, but it was also hard to get my head around being alone for a month. The finish in Cape Town was also hard because I really enjoyed being out there. It was the end of a special experience with Le Pingouin, getting to know her and creating a relationship with a boat I will spend thousands of miles on alone.

Favorite Meal?

AlpineAire is my staple whenever I am offshore. It is a great product that offers what the solo racing environment requires – light, compact, easy-to-use energy. I brought a variety of their dehydrated meals (about 80 bags to be exact) but here are my favorites…

On a special day (maybe once a week or a Sunday morning with mellow breeze) I like to customize the Bandito Scramble. It is the only AlpineAire product I take that actually needs to be cooked, but it is a great one. I add some water to the egg powder and the potatoes and peppers are already in there. I have been known to add a little onion and chorizo if it is onboard. My regular favorites for dinner include Leonardo da Fettuccini or Forever Young Mac and Cheese. All I have to do is heat some water with my little camping stove, throw it in the AlpineAire bag and let it sit for 12 minutes. I picked up some miniature packets of spicy oil used for pizza in France that adds a nice touch.

My typical breakfast is Grawnola, which I discovered right before departing Charleston. This adds diversity to my diet and is a raw, yummy, fiber source that helps my whole messed up digestion process function offshore. The Grawnola bars are super convenient if it is rough and I need to be on deck, but the regular Grawnola in a cereal form is my favorite.


When we were in La Rochelle, France the Mayor held a ceremony to welcome us and recognize the Eco-60 Class and goals of sustainability. In the process he gave me a bottle of Cognac (lucky for me!). Once in a while offshore I would have a small shot or sip of the Cognac in the evening. I have to say the biggest treat while sailing offshore is yet to be had. JC Caso is part of our small team and his parents live outside La Rochelle in France. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever met and knowing I was headed off for the long race, they cooked several homemade dinners from their farm raised products in the country and canned them specifically for my journey. This is not your Chef Boyardee canned food but homemade dinners like Beef Bourguignon. Of course cans are heavy so I cannot justify taking many, but I am planning one per week in the Southern Ocean.


Music. I am not that into music, but when you don’t have any for 28 days, it is painful.

Packed too much?

Nothing. There were no extras onboard.

Biggest difference from last race?

The biggest difference I can identify is that in general I don’t feel the pressure to win as much as I did in 2002-3. I am having fun with it and genuinely enjoying being offshore. Don’t get me wrong. I am racing as hard as I can, but I am enjoying the experience more.

I am busy preparing for Leg 2 which will set off on December 12 from Cape Town and send me south into the Southern Indian Ocean headed for the next port of Wellington, New Zealand. Thanks for checking in and taking part in the adventure.