Underway in the fourth leg of the Global Ocean Race

We've been at sea for two days, i wrote an earlier update which somehow
was never sent so here is a summary of our start of the fourth leg of the
Global Ocean Race, Punta del Este Uruguay to Charleston US.

The start in Punta was relatively quiet although I was a bit annoyed with
the spectators boat all over the starting area but all was well once we
got off. Whilst Cessna was first over the line Phesheya took a spectacular
shortcut between a rocky reef and the beach at the southern tip of the
Punta del Este peninsula and the two boats were soon in the lead with
Sec Hayai in third and us trailing behind.

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.

Sergio Frattaruolo joins Nannini for final legs of Global Ocean Race

With two weeks to the start of the fourth leg of the Global Ocean Race there's a crew change on Financial Crisis. The Italian former Mini 650 sailor Sergio Frattaruolo will replace Hugo Ramon to sail the final 2 stages of the race with Marco Nannini, from Punta del Este to Chaleston and from there to Les Sables d'Olonne.

Sergio, following his participation in the solo Transat 650 last November will step to the larger Class40s with the goal of gaining experience ahead of the launch of his own solo attempt of the 2013/2014 Global Ocean Race.

We are in Punta del Este! Celebrations Celebrations Celebrations!

We made it! We are in Punta del Este Uruguay, 35 days at sea! We have
sailed through gale force winds, we reached across the depths of the
Southern Ocean with albatrosses to guard our progress, we clenched our
teeth through the icebergs, we fought with the icy winds from Anctartica,
we rounded the most dreaded cape in the world, we sailed through the snow
capped cliffs of la Tierra del Fuego, we caught kelp in our rudders and
watched spectacular sunsets and sunrises, we smelt land by the shores of
Argentina and crossed the muddy waters of the Plata river, but most of all
we kept our dream alive, one step closer to home, one step closer to
racing around the world.

Glorious sunshine for final push to Uruguay

We have just over 400 miles to go to the finish line in Punta del Este,
the permanent cloud cover of the past few days has broken up during the
night and i stood my watch in the cockpit as a magnificent sunrise brought
summer to our world. Since we left the icy weather of the high latitudes
it has been remarkable to watch the temperature rise very fast as we
sailed north. Water temperature is now at nearly 20 degrees and today I'm
sure we can get rid of all our base and mid layers and finally sport some
shorts and t-shirts.

Tough head winds make for frustrating home run

I guess we all assumed that once turned the corner from the Horn
everything was going to be easy, I certainly did, so I was a little
surprised when last night the wind piped up to a fierce 35-40 knots dead
on the nose in a nasty chop and a mysterious 2 knots adverse current. The
net result was 12 hours of very nasty sailing and very little progress.

With frustration building quickly we came to the stark realisation that
that the last stretch from the Strait of Le Maire to Punta was not to be
ftaken for granted.

Finally back in the Atlantic!

If rounding the horn is the accepted "cool dude" turning point, I feel
much better now that we are finally sailing in the Atlantic. After Cape
Horn we headed north towards the Strait of Le Maire, between the Tierra
del Fuego and the Isla De Los Estatos which marks the gate that opens
into the Atlantic leaving the Southern Ocean behind. The strait has a bit
of a reputation for its strong currents and overfalls so much so that most
yachts racing up this way tend to pass to the outside and east of the Isla
De Los Estatos.

We did it! We rounded Cape Horn!!!

What a day, we finally rounded Cape Horn! I think it will take me a while
to fully process this fact but I'm sure it'll live in my thoughts for the
rest of my life, arriving here has been at times tremendously tough and
yesterday just when the weather was finally improving we were left with a
a last minute reminder of where we are, a squall came through during the
night bringing another stint of 50 knots winds and lots of snow, it was
quite surreal... In some respects it is an anticlimax, you wait for this
moment all your life and there you are holding a sign which reads CAPE
HORN, the only indication that you have made it apart of course from the
GPS position.

Racing again to the Horn after the storm

We are through the peak of the storm and we're happy to report that we
didn't sustain any damage...

Cape Horn gale: we'll wait for the worst to go through

A nasty gale is brewing south of us, the worst of it is headed straight
for Cape Horn just at the same time we were due to round the infamous
cape. After much debate we decided it was simply too risky for us to carry
on heading for such a dangerous randez-vous and have instead slowed down
and we'll let the worst of the gale blow through before resuming our
course with improving weather behind us rather than the risk of being
cornered in a lee shore in nasty waves forming on the continental shelf
and no where to run.

In 12 hours the centre of the low should be east of us and moving north
eastwards away from us.

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...