Breaking news from Cape Town - Financial Crisis to announce crew change for leg two of GOR

We have been in Cape Town for a week so here is a long overdue update following the emotional finish with the glorious sight of Table Mountain in the background. One of the first comments that race director Josh Hall shared with me was that the crews arriving in this edition of the Global Ocean Race were far more tired and exhausted than three years ago, I was totally drained so I was not surprised to hear this, the battle for the podium in the final stages of the race pushed us to new limits and claimed all residual energies. It has taken me several days to feel anywhere near normal, and with no lack of celebrations and social gatherings it has been even more difficult to catch up with sleep. 

A night of drama and a hard fought podium result into Cape Town

This is just a brief message to say that we've crossed the finish line to take third in the first leg of the Global Ocean Race managing to keep Cessna behind to the finish. Paul and I are absolutely exhausted but incredibly delighted. We have given absolutely all we had to give to achieve this result... It was not as straight forward as it first may seem, however close the battle was on the tracker drama unfolded thickening the plot in the darkest hours of the night. Just after the 9pm position report we had gained just enough miles to start believing it was going to be possible, we had 22 miles lead with 150 to go and at that stage we were better positioned relative to the finish line and polling higher speeds.

Less than a thousands miles to go

We just broke through the barrier of the 1000 miles to go to Cape Town,
it's still a lot and the pressure is high, Cessna is 114 miles behind at
the last ping but they are giving it all averaging over 12 knots now and
curving fast onto the rhumb line.

Southern Ocean sailing at its best

The Southern Ocean with its albatrosses and deep sea creatures is treating
us well, we are sailing on the edge of a high pressure system in following
winds and a pleasant spring sunshine, we have been averaging more than 10
knots for a couple of days now covering many miles towards Cape Town.

Fast miles towards Tristan da Cunha

First of all big congratulations to Ross and Campbell Field, and to Halvard
Mabire and Miranda Merron for their first leg achievement, all winners in my
eyes for their display of experience, determination and skill in negotiating
their route to Cape Town.

We have turned the corner, I feel, in this endless leg to Cape Town, our sails
are finally free, we are heading towards Tristan da Cunha which we intend to
leave well to port before progressively curving in towards Cape Town. Boat
speed is in the nines and tens and should get in the regular tens once the wind
frees a little bit further.

Stars, water, and this and that

After a windless night where frustration run high we picked some wind
restoring some of the lost faith in the concept of sailing a freaking boat
from A to B without murdering anyone. I sometimes shout my lungs out to
the elements, not so much with Paul on the boat, as once I scared the
living shit out of him as he woke from deep sleep to a shouting maniac,
but when I sailed solo I was definitely all for cursing as loudly as
possible, creatively cursing, the godless clouds, the dolphins and the
birds and whatever comes at hand, as a form of cathartic therapy, until
you feel better or the wind comes back.

Ghosting and drifting with the Ciccio's Code

A month into the first leg of the Global Ocean Race and we are negotiating
a high pressure system right in our path, preventing us from making any
progress towards Cape Town.

The weather gave me a chance to climb the mast and see what happened with
the wind instruments.

Straight to Cape Town? Computer says no

We are now into our fifth week at sea, tomorrow it'll be a month we'left
Palma, it's a bloody long time! Longer than I have ever been, with 22 days
at the Route du Rhum my previous longest... Yet, here, with the current
complex forecast, we estimate another two whole weeks before we get into
Cape Town, two more weeks of blocking away images of steaks and chips,
beer, hot showers, a bed, clean clothes, a decent coffee with a nice
croissant, freshly squeezed orange juice, I even dare say salad (but
definitely not high on the list!)....

Back to basics on Financial Crisis after loss of wind instruments

Short blog today, just after sunset yesterday all hell broke loose like
someone had pressed a giant button that said mayhem. The wind very
suddenly piped up from 20 to 30 knots, we were pinned down with too much
sail and took a while to restore order. Once reefed and taking a pasting
in the winds and waves we lost the wind readings on the NKE instruments. At
first I thought I could fix it, we had already lost our primary,
vertical wind instrument in the doldrums and were running on the
spare, sturdy horizontal so i hoped it was just a wiring problem, i spent
hours below rewiring the little boxes but to no avail, I did at least
manage to restore the use of the autopilot in compass mode.

Weather for ducks and... chocolate

We are beating our brains to mash into the south-easterlies, not too bad
so far, staysail and one reef in solid 20 knots, boat slamming, waves
crashing across the cockpit, it's wet out there, cant find a strong enough
reason to be there, sleeping under a warm duvet seems just fine as the
autopilot battles the freaking elements, no traces of any shipping,
radar reflector and AIS totally silent. I think it is safe to say we
are in the middle of freaking no where. Even Paul who normally is in the
cockpit unless is taking a nap or eating is finding the comforts of the
port master cabin to be far more agreeable then the jet wash in the
garden.

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...