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.

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. After the front the
wind started to ease and there seemed no further need to change down, just
then the spinnaker came down straight in the water. It was a hell of a job
to retrieve the sail on board as it was acting as a sea anchor, we tried
to stop the boat as best as we could and then an inch at a time we managed
to drag the cloth into the cockpit. Miraculously the sail did not even get
damaged, it had not been torn by the wind, instead, a stainless steel
shackle that holds the sail attached to the sock had broken, a rather
unlikely and unpredictable failure but that shackle has been twice around
the world and I have to accept these things can happen. All in all, apart
from getting soaked and tired there were no consequences to the incident,
we promptly hoisted the smaller spinnaker and kept going.

As i write we are crossing the imaginary line between Ouessant and Cape
Finisterre that delimits the bay of Biscay. The route to and from these
two points is one of the busiest shipping routes in Europe leading into
the traffic of the English Channel. We had been used to seeing the
occasional ship in the North Atlantic which is certainly the busiest of
the seas we crossed, but here, suddenly the AIS anti collision system woke
up and is currently plotting 12 ships in range, all travelling along this
route, pretty much like crossing a motorway.

Further in the bay, where the sea bed rises sharply from thousands of
meters to shallow waters we'll have to watch for french fishing boats, a
real threat, Hugo Boss was famously hit by one just outside Les Sables
D'Olonne, let's hope they are on strike today!

I'm sure a part of me will be sad when all of this will be over, but the
anticipation for the completion of this journey is enormous, my fiancee
Ella is now travelling from London to come and meet me on the finish line
and it will be a really special feeling after 10 months of separation
interrupted by brief visits at each stopover. Several family and friends
will travel to meet me in Les Sables and I think as the days will pass it
will all start to sink in, that we have sailed around the world.

Certainly the return to land will have its share of challenges, hopefully
an offer on the boat will materialise soon to enable me to deal with the
debts i racked up and get by until i find a job. None of this is life
threatening though, only a temporary hassle which i think pales in
comparison to what we're achieving. A massive thanks to those who have
sent fresh funds through www.marconannini.com/help, a webpage that was
setup as a bit of a joke and that put me back in the game when I very
nearly retired from the race in New Zealand, these contributions have made
a make or break difference to the project, thank you all!

Time to concentrate for the final stretch...

Great finish! by Kev (not verified)