We have arrived in Les Sables D'Olonne taking second place

Just a brief message to say we are in Les Sables D'Olonne, even the last
few hours of this Global Ocean Race have been quite intense with a front
sweeping over our heads giving us winds gusting 45 knots this morning,
rather unusual for june. Luckily the sky cleared and the wind started
dropping just before the final approach to Les Sables where we crossed the
finish line around 6pm local time.

I will send an update tomorrow, not it's time to celebrate. Until then a
massive thank you for all the support received in making it here.

Last minute adventures in the final day of the Global Ocean Race

Today is the last full day at sea for us, in around 24 hours we should be
making landfall and reach Les Sables D'Olonne and bring to a conclusion
this epic jurney.

We've been making very good progrees with strong following winds pushing
us for days but the adventure is not quite over yet. Last night as the
front was passing through we were flying towards the finish line with our
medium spinnaker in strong building winds, admittedly we were on the limit
but it was such a joy to see the boat surfing at 15-20 knots that i wished
to take that memory home with me.

All was fine, the front came through with gusts of nearly 40 knots that
would send the boat driving through walls of spray.

Riding the storm - fast progress towards the finish

Progress in the last couple of days has been fantastic.

Sail damage in serious nose dive during storm

I've just had a dinner of rice with a thai green sauce and a peanut bar
for desert, slowly recovering from the busy day. The gale we faced
yesterday left us with a few issues to deal with. We had chosen a route
that kept us away from the very worst of the deepening depression but as
we sailed deeper into the low the wind was steadily above 40 knots and
gusting occasionally at nearly 50 knots.

We had been rather conservative in every step, we furled the solent quite
early on when the wind was still building, unfortunately the furling drum
was wrapped with a spinnaker sheet and it took a minute or two to resolve,
when it came to furling the sail we were hit by a gust and the violent
flogging put a tear in the leach of the sail.

Gale force winds to hit GOR fleet soon

I will certainly remember leg five of the Global Ocean Race as the one
where time expanded, we're not even half way and i feel like i've been on
this boat for 9 consecutive months. Perhaps the anticipation for the
imminent finish of the whole race plays tricks with my mind or perhaps
it's simply because we had some of the most frustrating weather of any
leg...

After leading the early days of this leg we were as predicted overtaken by
Cessna. We managed to keep quite close to them for some time until we very
quickly lost lots of ground.

Fighting to maintain the lead in the Global Ocena Race

It's the fourth day of this fifth and final leg of the Global Ocean Race,
we are still leading but by rapidly narrowing margin, just 4 miles over
Cessna at the last report and it seems highly likely that we'll soon have
to hand over our crown, after giving them a good run for their money we
are floating helplessly in very light winds and I think they'll finally
manage to squeeze past.

After facing tropical storm "Alberto" the first night of the race the
weather has changed in a maze of unpredictable winds, the conditions we
met very often differed substantially from the forecast.

Leading the fleet in the wake of tropical storm Alberto

Last night was tough, in fact some of the worst we've seen in the entire
race.

Global Ocean Race: We are second in Charleston!

Finally here we are, Sergio and I literally just crossed the finish line in
front of Charleston Harbour, it's the middle of the night, just after
midnight local time, the race officials are about to board the boat to check
the engine seals and then we'll be able to drop the sails and motor towards
the marina. Hopefully we're still in time to get our first beer in the
United States but we may have to wait for immigration officials before we're
allowed to get off the boat, they are pretty strict over here with this
stuff...

It took us just under 30 days to sail from Punta del Este to take second
place in Charleston, three days faster than we had anticipated, finishing
within 24 hours of race leader Cessna Citation.

A gentle ride into South Carolina

We have 340 miles left to Charleston, we are pleased with how things have
gone in the past 2 days, after the tactical move to cover Phesheya we feel
a little more in control of our destiny.

Heading left on the chessboard

The last 24 hours have been incredibly frustrating, the whole day we
negotiated the passage of many rain clouds which played havoc with the
wind, on average we had a lot less than predicted by the forecast and
after each downpour we hoped things would stabilise but the never ending
sequence of squalls followed by windholes kept going on and on. Even more
annoyingly, we found an average of 1.5 knots of adverse current, only
after midnight the counter flow seems to have started decreasing.

The total effect of all the above has been dramatic on our advantage over
Phesheya, the miles have evaporated faster than the cold sweat over my
forehead at the thought of being overtaken after all this hard work. We
dropped more than 40 miles of advantage in just one day.

Finally into the trade winds

The struggle to reach the stable trade winds seems to have lasted an
eternity, the fleet progress has been very slow compared to the schedule
we had imagined when leaving Punta del Este and only Cessna at the front
has been keeping steady averages since reaching these steady winds a day
ahead of us.

So far and for several days we seemed to have fairly stable winds at night
then we'd get stopped during the day in flukey winds and sudden rain
showers caused presumably by the high temperatures and moist air becoming
unstable. This morning for the first time the winds held strong after
sunrise and the sky is unmistakeably changed, little white fluffy clouds
are scattered regularly around instead of massive cumulus formations
typical of the unstable air masses of the last few days, see the photo for
an example.

We've emerged from this section of the race in second place squeezing a
lead of 60 miles over Phesheya, our gamble to go offshore at Cabo Frio
paid off eventually. I think we can now expect a drag race to the doldrums
where things could get shaken again. I may be wrong so we'll certainly
keep a watchful eye on the Dutch and the Southafrincans and try cover our
backs from a likely attack...

We had a few issues with the NKE electronics suddenly losing the boat
speed reading, then the compass reading, all misteriously working again by
simply powering off an on the system, luckily all the problems occurred
in light airs and not while sailing with the big spinnaker in strong winds
like during leg 3 when a similar failure caused the boat to go off in a
big gybe resulting in the big spinnaker to be torn in half (and
subsequently repaired in Punta del Este).

Another misterious source of worry came from the primary alternator we
rely on to charge the batteries, for 2 consecutive days it seemed to have
given up the ghost, only to wake up gingerly this morning and resume
service as if nothing had ever happened.

So far, save for a spinnaker sheet which I quite stupidly lost overboard
during a manouvre we havent really had any damage or serious problems,
let's hope things carry on like this to make Charleston a stress free and
cheap stopover. The budget has long ago been totally depleted. In Punta we
were being hosted in free accommodation by the Yacht Club Punta del Este
and for the other expenses i relied on the generosity of many readers who
have sent donations through www.marconannini.com/help which i'm very
grateful for. We're hoping to find a host family during our relatively
brief Charleston stopover and hopefully the price of food will be no where
near the inflated prices of Punta del Este where an espresso could cost
over 3 euros! For now we're getting in the swing of our freeze dried diet,
the last fresh item, an apple, was eaten yesterday.