Happy Christmas from the Southern Ocean

In the unlikely setting of a sunny Southern Ocean day, flying the biggest
spinnaker under a blue sky, we dream of home, of friends, family and loved
ones (and beer and steak).

It's friday and you'll be heading home to your families soon so we thought
we'd send you our best wishes for a Happy Christmas!

Ciao!
Marco & Hugo

Send us a message at www.marconannini.com/sms or send us a present at
www.marconannini.com/help

Surfing into the Pacific Ocean and a reminder of our luck

Yesteday we passed Cape Leeuwin, about 500 miles to our north and have
now, geographically speaking, entered the Pacific Ocean...

Battered by strongest winds yet! Riding the storm

There we go, did i mention anytime over the past few days that this
freaking place is a bit windy? We are running under triple reefed mainsail
and staysail and earlier we got flattened on the side like a dinghy in a
gust that read 57.8 knots on the one surviving wind instrument... This
hopefully is not meant to last long, and it'd better not as we are sailing
at full speed towards the ice limit at 45S, if the wind does not drop soon
we are in trouble, i dont want to have to sail any higher in this sort of
winds but we are not allowed to sail south of 45S, we'll have to make a
call if these conditions persist.

War of attrition: Southern Ocean damage

I may sound boring if i reiterate that we're still in 35-40 knots of wind,
we have not seen anything less than 25 and anything up to 55 for the past
week and inevitably we've suffered some level of damage.

Australia is now only 750 miles above our heads but the finish line still
some 3100 miles to the east, it's a long bloody way to New Zealand!

The first major item to pack up was the Watt&Sea hydrogenerator, the
bracket that holds it on the back of the boat buckled as a side wave must
have pushed the leg with great force, the leg itself is bent and for now
it is unserviceable.

Secondly, and more frustratingly, one of the two NKE wind wands has packed
up as a front swept over our heads, it read 55 knots minutes before
ceising to work.

Riding the Southern Ocean horses: 52.7 knots top wind gust

Even the novelty of riding the back of a Southern Ocean low wears out
after a while, it's amazing what you get used to, we've been below, hatch
closed, for the past two days pretty much eating and sleeping and riding
this mad highway averaging around 12 knots but with surfs well above 20
knots, the maximum wind we recorded so far was 52.7 knots but otherwise
has been anywhere between 33 and 48 knots. Unfortunately with such a
wide range we can't really put any more sail up as we have to be careful
about the top end and the gusts so we are a little slower when the wind
drops, up and down all the time...

Giant waves crashing over the boat after mad surfs

The low that two days ago gave us a kicking upwind has moved to the SE and
now we are running in the strong following winds behind the cold front.
All looks ideal on paper and i'm sure it must look exciting to see us on
the tracker dashing at twice the speed compared to just 48 hours ago...
down here however we are getting a little more entertainement than we had
anticipated, the wind has piped up to 40-45 knots, which i hear you say,
is to be expected, there seems to be always a lot more wind than
predicted... as early as this morning we were flying the small spinnaker,
but then we changed down to the solent and now we are flying our staysail
with reefed main and still occasionally hitting 20knots surfs...

We are thorugh the storm without any damage!

Storm is over, back to normality. After a couple of nasty and
uncomfortable sailing days we just hoisted the small spinnaker and are
finally heading east at decent speeds.

Getting away from the worst of the stormy low

A few hours ago we tacked south follwing Phesheya's example to distance
ourselves from the worst of the winds of the low pressure north west of
us. By the time we tacked the wind was already blowing a full force 7
gusting 8 yet according to the grib files we should have had about 20
knots of wind and it was due to get a lot worse...

Wet, cold, unpleasant bashing

So, the front came through, the wind went around from Northerly to
Southerly in a very short space, within an hour we were reaching in 30-35
knots of wind in a very very confused sea state, absolutely horrible, boat
thrown left to right, surfing, then bashing into a wave, then knocked
sideways, waves of frozen water crashing over the cockpit making even the
shortest trip to trim a sail extremely uncomfortable.

I run the heater for the first time, the exhaust pipe had come undone from
the unit resulting in all the smoke invading the cabin, very unpleasant, I
couldnt open any of the hatches due to the waves and just waited a long
while for the air to clear.

Running away from the front like a good Italian soldier

The cold front is about to reach us, behind us i can see broken clouds and
some blue sky here and there, it rained earlier and the wind has kept on
backing.

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...