We have arrived in Les Sables D'Olonne taking second place

Just a brief message to say we are in Les Sables D'Olonne, even the last
few hours of this Global Ocean Race have been quite intense with a front
sweeping over our heads giving us winds gusting 45 knots this morning,
rather unusual for june. Luckily the sky cleared and the wind started
dropping just before the final approach to Les Sables where we crossed the
finish line around 6pm local time.

I will send an update tomorrow, not it's time to celebrate. Until then a
massive thank you for all the support received in making it here.

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.

Riding the storm - fast progress towards the finish

Progress in the last couple of days has been fantastic.

Sail damage in serious nose dive during storm

I've just had a dinner of rice with a thai green sauce and a peanut bar
for desert, slowly recovering from the busy day. The gale we faced
yesterday left us with a few issues to deal with. We had chosen a route
that kept us away from the very worst of the deepening depression but as
we sailed deeper into the low the wind was steadily above 40 knots and
gusting occasionally at nearly 50 knots.

We had been rather conservative in every step, we furled the solent quite
early on when the wind was still building, unfortunately the furling drum
was wrapped with a spinnaker sheet and it took a minute or two to resolve,
when it came to furling the sail we were hit by a gust and the violent
flogging put a tear in the leach of the sail.

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.

Fighting to maintain the lead in the Global Ocena Race

It's the fourth day of this fifth and final leg of the Global Ocean Race,
we are still leading but by rapidly narrowing margin, just 4 miles over
Cessna at the last report and it seems highly likely that we'll soon have
to hand over our crown, after giving them a good run for their money we
are floating helplessly in very light winds and I think they'll finally
manage to squeeze past.

After facing tropical storm "Alberto" the first night of the race the
weather has changed in a maze of unpredictable winds, the conditions we
met very often differed substantially from the forecast.

Leading the fleet in the wake of tropical storm Alberto

Last night was tough, in fact some of the worst we've seen in the entire
race.

Global Ocean Race: We are second in Charleston!

Finally here we are, Sergio and I literally just crossed the finish line in
front of Charleston Harbour, it's the middle of the night, just after
midnight local time, the race officials are about to board the boat to check
the engine seals and then we'll be able to drop the sails and motor towards
the marina. Hopefully we're still in time to get our first beer in the
United States but we may have to wait for immigration officials before we're
allowed to get off the boat, they are pretty strict over here with this
stuff...

It took us just under 30 days to sail from Punta del Este to take second
place in Charleston, three days faster than we had anticipated, finishing
within 24 hours of race leader Cessna Citation.

A gentle ride into South Carolina

We have 340 miles left to Charleston, we are pleased with how things have
gone in the past 2 days, after the tactical move to cover Phesheya we feel
a little more in control of our destiny.

Heading left on the chessboard

The last 24 hours have been incredibly frustrating, the whole day we
negotiated the passage of many rain clouds which played havoc with the
wind, on average we had a lot less than predicted by the forecast and
after each downpour we hoped things would stabilise but the never ending
sequence of squalls followed by windholes kept going on and on. Even more
annoyingly, we found an average of 1.5 knots of adverse current, only
after midnight the counter flow seems to have started decreasing.

The total effect of all the above has been dramatic on our advantage over
Phesheya, the miles have evaporated faster than the cold sweat over my
forehead at the thought of being overtaken after all this hard work. We
dropped more than 40 miles of advantage in just one day.

Sail damage in serious nose dive during storm

I've just had a dinner of rice with a thai green sauce and a peanut bar
for desert, slowly recovering from the busy day. The gale we faced
yesterday left us with a few issues to deal with. We had chosen a route
that kept us away from the very worst of the deepening depression but as
we sailed deeper into the low the wind was steadily above 40 knots and
gusting occasionally at nearly 50 knots.

We had been rather conservative in every step, we furled the solent quite
early on when the wind was still building, unfortunately the furling drum
was wrapped with a spinnaker sheet and it took a minute or two to resolve,
when it came to furling the sail we were hit by a gust and the violent
flogging put a tear in the leach of the sail. We havent been able to
assess the damage yet but hopefully it should be quite easily repairable,
we just need to find a window of calm weather to deal with it.

The wind built rapidly and we spent a lont time with 3 reefs in the main
and the staysail and still occasionally taking off massive surfs at 18 and
occasionally even 20 knots. We were mainly below with the hatch closed as
several waves broke in the cockpit...

The sea state deteriorated quite rapidly and occasionally we were hit by
larger than average cross waves. All seemed perfectly under control until
we sailed down the face of one of thes monsters, we started surfing
almost vertiacally until the bottom of the wave where we buried the bow
very violently. Sergio in his bunk was thrown forward by the sudden
deceleration but luckily was sleeping feet first and wasnt injured, the
whole boat tilted diagonally and just in that instant where you think
you're about to come upright the very wave that had sent us surfing broke
over the boat in a thunderous roar.

Eventually the boat re-emerged from the momentary sea burial as if nothing
had happened, those were quite scary instants. We could have done a lot of
damage but other than the fright we thought we had made it thorough
uscathed, that's until I looked out I noticed we had blown the foot of the
staysail, torn open by the force of the water breaking over the deck.

The staysail can be reefed and luckily the damage is contained below the
reef point, so we reefed the sail and continue rather undercanvassed for
the rest of the night. Today as the wind decreased we put the small A5
spinnaker and I took down the staysail to assess the damage. It's quite
bad, with one meter long vertical tear starting from the foot, but i think
with a little patience i can fix it, at least to make it serviceable in
case we need it again...

With two headsails damaged in the space of few hours I spent the day
needle in hand replaying our choices through my head. We had gained on
Phesheya but sustained some damage, yet we had lost lots of miles to
Cessna that seemed to be pushing through as if storms didnt affect them...
that's until midday today, Cessna had clearly stopped in the midst of the
storm, covering just a handful of miles in three hours, what happened? At
the next report they were moving again, ruling out a dismating but their
averages were not compatible with the winds they were in... We reduced our
deficit to them by nearly over 50 miles over the rest of the day and it is
unclear whether they are sailing at full capacity or not...

The race continues, we lick our wounds, we repair the damage and press on,
a final push towards Les Sables D'Olonne. Both men and machines are tired
and we hope to outsail the next depression forming behind and avoid the
strongest winds as its centre moves to the north, this time sailing fast
is the best defence, suits me, i really want to cross that finish line,
now just over 1500 miles away...