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!