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.

A tale of celebrations, hard work and love from Punta del Este

It's been three weeks since we arrived in Punta del Este following our tough Southern Ocean leg from Wellington around Cape Horn. Life ashore brings always a great variety of emotions, from the happyness of celebrating the arrival, to the hard work we need to put in to prepare the boat for the next leg to the inevitable stress of the expenses we face each time we stop. Luckily we are being hosted in the rooms of the Yacht Club Punta del Este who has been extremely welcoming and nice to us as otherwise life in the Monte Carlo of South America is painfully expensive.

My new co-skipper for the remainder of the race, fellow Italian former Mini sailor Sergio Frattaruolo, has joined me in Punta and has been working hard on the boat, servicing whinches and helping me with all repairs. 

Our broken spinnaker has been fixed by North Sails in Montevideo, we also had to replace all the boom reef lines sheaves which had become brittle due to prolonged UV exposure and had started to break. The rest was ordinary maintenance but even after 20 thousand miles at sea I'm still puzzled at each stopover at how long a job list can get. I spent 4 hours scrubbing the boat which was incredibly dirty (you could see we had green growth even on arrival which isnt too good for speed!), the scrubbing is not over yet as there have been some interesting exchange of opinions with the local diving service who was not to happy with the Financial Crisis do it yourself and save approach!

Of course the biggest piece of news of this stopover will remain that of my engagement to my girlfriend Ella. We have to thank my sponsor Ventana Group who has made it possible for us to meet at each stopver, covering the cost of her flights to Buenos Aires where I spent a wonderful week in her company, popping the question over a humble dish of pasta I was a little nervous which luckily she found very sweet - she said yes by the way!

The start is in just under two weeks and the schedule is packed, tomorrow a convoy of beautiful Mustang cars will drive from Montevideo to Punta del Este to great Financial Crisis, a gathering orchestrated by the Mustang Club of Italy who's been cheering and supporting me since the start. I will meet the Italian Consul for Uruguay and later the Slovak Ambassador, I am really happy of this moral support from both my home countries. We still have skipper briefings to attend, the prizegiving for the previous leg, a press conference... the weather is nice and the atmosphere is good, there is far less apprehension that when we were about to face the south but this is not to say the next leg will be easy!

A massive thank you as usual to all those who have kept sending messages of support and helped us with repairs and stopover costs with donations throgh the website at www.marconannini.com/help it is a lifeline that has helped us getting this far and pushing forward till the finish. 

 

A rather belated

A rather belated congratulations from us both to you & Ella! Great news to read of your engagement and good to hear you are keeping that kiwi on his toes. You keep up that good work in the final leg. We will be following your progress all the way.

Lots of love,
Sarah & Ben Spencer, Wellington, NZ.

Congratulations Marco and

Congratulations Marco and Ella. I believe your engagement present should be something special that you will never forget.... like a podium finish in the 2011/12 GOR!
Kev