The end of the trade winds

Just as i write a big rain cloud on the horizon has brought a sudden
windshift, this is the first we encounter since leaving the unstable airs
around the equator and unfortunately it probably signals the end of the
stable band of the trade winds... We have 1350 miles to the finish which
will bring more variety and hard work.

Ahead of us a patch of really light airs which wont fill for another two
days and which has already caused us to slow down and forced Cessna onto
the opposite gybe.

Full speed ride towards Charleston

The past few days have finally brought the fast ride we had been promised
on the brochure, averaging over 10 knots in the right direction since
saturday afternoon. I believe we've been the fastest boat in the fleet for
a while, we caught up around 50 miles from Cessna's lead and extended by
about 15 on Phesheya since the beginning of the weekend.

During saturday night we had the big spinnaker up when we were caught by a
squall, we hanged on for dear life as the boat lept off the waves surfing
at nearly 20 knots in winds briefly gusting just over 30 knots, it was the
strongest squall we had been caught by this far so admittedly we were
unprepared to take down the spinnaker and we just rode it out in walls of
spray through the total darkness of the moonless night.

Thank you all for the birthday wishes!

I'm turning 34 today and this is definitely a birthday I will remember, my
first at sea in fact. During my first watch, when it was still night, i
started receiving the first birthday wishes, from Ella, from my brother,
from Roberto, my sailmaker, then my friend Enrico called me on the sat
phone early in the morning... Unfortunately i cant access facebook from
here but Ella sent through some of the many messages, there are loads
apparently. Thank you especially for those you sent directly to the boat
through my website at www.marconannini.com/sms, they really cheered me up.

Many thoughts are going through my head today, this has been a rather
special year.

From the roaring forties to the roaring V8's of Mustangs

We've been at sea just over a fortnight now and for the past few days
we've been sailing in a very regular band of the trade winds, with around
20 knots from our starboard side, the unexpected adverse current that we
had all experienced after the equator comes and goes and we still see no
sign of the favourable Guyana current that should be helping us along
the way... life aboard is very monotonous these days, revolving around
meals, naps and a few emails to family and friends interrupted by the
occasional need to trim the sails.

I guess if sailing around the world was as easy as the last few hundred
miles no one would bother, a donkey on tranquilizers could steer through
these waters but as usual the sea is not without its perils.

Sailing arond the world is like music to your ears

During the night we crossed the equator for a second time in six months,
technicalities and definitions apart i think i can now say I have sailed
around the world.

When i entered the race in April 2010, i probably didnt have a full grasp
of what i was setting out to do.

Financial Crisis Class40 for urgent sale in June - offers invited

Financial Crisis, currently holding second overall in the Global Ocean
Race is for sale or long term charter immediately after the end of the
race, due to finish in Les Sables D'Olonne around June 8th 2012.

With personal debts in the tens of thousands of pounds and currently
unemployed I must sell the boat ASAP! All meaningful offers considered for
a quick sale.

Second place throught the Celox scoring gate

The last few days have been, as predicted, a drag race towards the
north-east corner of Brasil, all tactical decision had been played out
earlier around the tricky corner near Rio de Janeiro where the wind tends
to be always on the nose and there is a nasty counter current. Since then
we've proceeded in a near perfect straight line to this next corner where
we'll all "turn left" towards Charleston. The Celox virtual scoring gate
is placed on this turning point which marks the beginning of the next
phase of the race and we're quite pleased to be crossing in second place
after the boys on Cessna who unfortunately have slipped from our reach and
are further ahead.

Finally into the trade winds

The struggle to reach the stable trade winds seems to have lasted an
eternity, the fleet progress has been very slow compared to the schedule
we had imagined when leaving Punta del Este and only Cessna at the front
has been keeping steady averages since reaching these steady winds a day
ahead of us.

So far and for several days we seemed to have fairly stable winds at night
then we'd get stopped during the day in flukey winds and sudden rain
showers caused presumably by the high temperatures and moist air becoming
unstable.

An inch at a time we fight to go north

The last two days have been far from easy, as we approached the
continental shelf off Cabo Frio near Rio de Janeiro we were met by the
nasty Brazilian south-flowing current. The deep current is
pushed to the surface and strengthens to a strong flow where the bottom of
the ocean goes from thousands of meters to under a hundred in the space of
few miles. The adverse flow reached nearly 2 knots just as the forecast
indicated light winds ahead.

We had a tough choice to make, either head inshore in shallow waters or
offshore in deep waters where the current would be less.

Easter at sea

We've been at sea nearly 6 days, half the world is on holiday for a long
Easter weekend, for us it's been more wind and waves as we sail north east
hoping to soon reach the trade winds.

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...