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).

Closing the circle

I'm finally back in London, I guess this really closes the circle. Yesterday Ella and I arrived in Haslar Marina in Portsmouth Harbour after a rather tough delivery. I must admit I'm really glad to be back, it's been a tough long past 10 months and after the great adventure some normality seems a real luxury.

We left Les Sables D'Olonne on the 17th with a rather mild forecast but found ourselves crashing to windward in 30 knots of northerly wind and a nasty swell on the first night. The following day the wind dropped completely and we motored from the Raz de Sein and through the Canal de Four all the way to St Peter Port where we had to stop to refuel... Unfortunately the fuel pump was closed so we ended up staying overnight and had to wait till the following afternoon for the tide to rise again enough to get to the fuel pontoon when it was open and then find a favourable current north through the Little Russel channel and towards the UK. The weather didnt play ball and a 20knots reach that we had as forecast turned out to be a solid beat all the way to the Isle of Wight with winds up to 35knots in absolute horrible weather and through constant thunderous squalls.

One squall in particular caught us totally unawares, I saw a very dense cloud approaching us on the radar, we were sailing with reefed main and staysail so I didnt think any action was required when suddenly the boat leaned over and the wind instruments read 40 the 50 then 60 knots while I watched in disbelief, the top gust was 65 knots!!! It all lasted less than 30 seconds and i thought i'd get to the cockpit to find all sails trashed but luckily there was no damage... I found it increadible that after sailing around the whole world I recorded the highest gust just 10 miles from home south of the Isle of Wight, perhaps the moral of the whole story is that we need to go away and see the four corners of the whole world to understand what we already have right there under our nose at home. 

The next few months will be about figuring out what's next, finding that elusive balance between dreams, ambitions, mortgages and bills, but I feel anything is possible and the right path will soon reveal itself. 

A massive thanks to all those who wrote messages of congratulations, it is truly wonderful to have been able to share this race with so many.