Severe weather forecast for Cape Horn in 48 hours

Our moment of glory as leaders of the Global Ocean Race was short-lived,
as predicted the reaching conditions favoured the newer more powerful
Cessna who simply pulled away averaging 1-2 knots faster despite our every
effort to bear away and sail as fast as possible. Now finally the wind has
turned round and we are sailing downwind but unfortunately we are paying
the price of our torn masthead spinnaker so again we are losing ground,
we'll need a bit of luck after the horn for a chance to catch up again.

Today however my thoughts are far more preoccupied with something else,
there's a storm brewing due to be sweep across Cape Horn exactly at the
same time as we expect to go round.

A day I'll never forget

Finally our dive to penguin latitudes paid its dividends and today we
jumped in the lead of the third leg of the Global Ocean Race with a lead
of 30 miles over Cessna Citation who had chosen a more northerly option.
We are still on full time radar watch for icebergs, the risk of finding
one on our way should be progressively decreasing but water temperature is
at the lowest we've seen at just 6C, air temperature is 4C and with the
wind chill we had the dubious pleasure of fine snow earlier today.

We are obviously incredibly happy, 6 months ago I would have never even
entertained the possibility of leading the race on the approach to Cape
Horn, we are savouring the moment like a rare whiskey but we are under no
illusion that we will be able to maintain our lead, we will certainl

A game of chess with Cessna

In a few miles we'll touch the latitude of 60 degrees south, it sounds
quite frightening but my cure is to remember that when I sailed the
Shetland Round Britain and Ireland in 2010 we were in higher latitudes in
the northern hemisphere, I guess what makes here so overwhelming is the
sense of isolation but if you say to yourself i'm sailing around the
Shetlands it does not sound quite as horrible! We are 1000 miles from Cape
Horn and as soon as the wind will turn it should soon become a fast ride
to our next stop.

The battle with Cessna continues on the high seas, yesterday our opponents
decided to break the cover and tacked north-east for about 8 hours. We
welcomed their move as we know that as long as we are in the same winds we
cannot beat a latest generation boat.

Southern ocean battle continues with light winds and icebergs sightings

Yesterday a brief email from Cessna some 50 miles to our port (to the
north of us) brought home the reality of our current position on the
planet. They had just spotted two icebergs, Antarctica is just over 1000
miles to the south of us and although we are out of dense iceberg
territory a few bergs survive long into the summer and drift north towards
our current position which was confirmed by recent satellite imagery. We
are keeping a constant radar lookout and visually inspect the horizon
regularly.

Closing the gap and battling it for the lead of the Global Ocean Race

Who would have imagined that in the third and most symbolic of legs,
heading for Cape Horn, we would be battling for the lead of the Global
Ocean Race. The storms of the early part of this leg seem now a distant
memory, two boats retired in huge seas and 50 knots winds. Today in the
southern depths of the Pacific Ocean at 55 degrees south, on the edge of
iceberg territory we are sailing in sunshine, flat waters and just enough
wind, 6-8 knots, to keep moving. Most importantly today marks a massive
come back for us, we closed a 284 miles gap to Cessna Citation and at the
last position report we were trailing the brand new latest generation boat
skippered by Conrad Colman by less than 2 miles.

Hard earned celebrations after crossing scoring gate

After nearly two weeks of hard core sailing, the best part of which spent
beating upwind in very tough conditions, including an early force 9 storm
that prompted two boats to retire, we are finally through the scoring
gate taking 2nd place.

Spinnaker trashed following autopilot malfunction

After what seemed like an eternal time spent beating upwind the last 48
hours have finally given us some following winds and faster sailing
conditions.

No respite in South Pacific horrible windward weather

This leg will be remembered as the ultimate test of patience and
resilience, it's been just over a week since we left Wellington, two boats
have turned around and headed back in the first big South Pacific blow
whilst we pressed on with the full knowledge that it was not going to get
better any time soon.

South Pacific storm brings drama to the plot

If this were a movie the last two days would have made for some nice drama
on the high seas, imagine the context, a fleet of racing boats headed for
Cape Horn, a South Pacific gale battering the fleet, huge waves crashing
against the boat through the night, the constant noise of haliards hitting
the mast, leech lines flapping, autopilot ram overloaded, water sloshing
in the bilges, the smell of your own boots turning your stomach inside
out, wet, cold, miserable...

The sat phone rings, no one has ever called us on the satphone, you
suspect it will not be Bart Simpson pulling one of his Moe's phone pranks,
who is it then? Another competitor on the end of the blurred satellite
line sounding emotional sums the reality of the situation "we are
considering retiring".

A day in paradise, a day in hell

The first few days of the race, once out of Cook Strait, have been
relatively easy sailing, reaching then downwind in moderate seas clocking
good mileage every poll, we were happy with our choice of heading further
south at the beginning which paid very well as now we have a lead of over
70 miles over Phesheya, our direct peer with an identical boat (although I
undertand they had an issue with a spinnaker).

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. We seemed to get stuck in a never ending
sequence of twists and turns in the weather that slowed us down
considerably, at first we were further south and we found lighter winds,
further north we indeed found better winds but also an eddie of the Gulf
Stream and sailed nearly 36 hours in an adverse current that peaked at 2
and half knots and probably cost us well over 50 miles to everyone else
who still enjoyed a favourable current.

Then, as soon as the wind veered to the north Cessna literally took off at
their strongest point of sail... We watched them burn the miles and
disappear off the screen as our eyes started to focus on a different
problem. There's a very deep depression forming to the west of us which
will hit us in a day with some very strong winds. In fact the weather
model shows we'll see at least 40 knots of wind but things could get quite
nasty as the depression will continue deepening as it travels east.

Once more my focus shifted away from the race and towards our safety and
that of the boat. Whatever position we finish in this leg we will secure
2nd place in the overall points ranking, but if we do not finish we could
hand our 2nd place over to Phesheya. In other words, strictly speaking,
our goal is simply to finish this leg. The boats are tired and frankly so
am I, so we took the foot off the gas and instead of launching on a rather
pointless chase of Cessna we actually decided to lose ground to the south
and slow down so that we'll avoid the worst of the gale force winds by
letting the depression overtake us before it deepens and strengthens. The
miles deficit to Cessna has grown very rapidly but we tried to not let it
bother us too much.

I appreaciate this doesn't sound very heroic but from a cold blooded
tactical point of view this is the best choice, nurse the boat as if she
was made of crystal all the way to Les Sables and enjoy the celebrations
of a round-the-world-race second place rather than take any unnecessary
risks with little or no upside. In fact for us to finish first overall it
would take for Cessna to retire from this leg, simply beating them to the
finish line would make no difference on points.

We are now moving further south and as soon as the depression will pass
over our heads in 24 hours we'll start running towards les sables, we
should have 2 days of very strong following winds and clock some fast
miles, hopefully we'll get through without breaking anything...