Pirate Update March 1, 2006

Position: 57,18.43S , 74,29.29W

Speed: 25 knots, Course: 83 deg.

247 miles out west of Cape Horn. 9:40 to go at present speed and a bit more wind ahead. We are reaching in with the blast reacher, genoa staysail and one reef in the main. It is dark, no moon, but it will only be dark for four hours tonight as we are at 57 south.

Movistar just sped past us today, 2 miles to leeward. That justified my thinking three days ago when we gybed away from the south and headed east to where we thought we should go. That move bought us 16 miles and it took them 3 days to get back to us. We have to continue to look for the right moves when racing both Movistar and ABN1 in these high speed conditions.

Shortly after they passed us, they took their spinnaker down and went with their blast reacher on a higher heading. The route all have us gybing near Cape Horn in 35 knots of wind. To gybe one of these things is a major project. You have to completely restack the boat and either you put all the sails below and haul them back on the deck after the maneuver, which is the safest thing to do but extremely hard work and time consuming or you gybe with them restacked already on the new windward side which makes doing the gybe a bit tricky for the skipper. We ran the router constraining it to a point offshore far enough that we would not have to gybe. Obviously that is not the optimal way to get around the horn,(the routing software calculated the optima) but I wanted to see what it was worth to go optimal. It turned out that the difference in time between optimal, which requires two gybes and there is no accounting in the router for the cost of a gybe, and sailing further offshore and against the shift, was about 20 minutes.

So we kept our spinnaker up for about 3 more hours than Movistar and kept heading southeast for a while. Just before dark, we went with the more user friendly and safer rig that we are now carrying. We are currently just making it past the Horn. I don’t think we went far enough so I think we will have to reset the spinnaker at first light to try to get a bit “deeper” or lower on the course.

So the short story is that there were two reasons for us to adopt a different strategy to approach the Horn than Movistar; one is that if we followed them they would probably beat us there, and the second which is actually a better reason is that I would really like to avoid two gybes in 35 true right off Cape Horn. Upside- a safer passage and a possible pass, downside-nothing. But with all that is to be calculated and managed, I won’t sleep until we get around the CORN-er.

We currently have the same rig and conditions that we had the first night of this race off Vigo when we ripped the keel fairing doors off the bottom of the boat. We are doing up to 30 knots at times and slamming off waves in the night as the helmsmen can’t see where we are going to land. The shuttering and slamming makes sounds like broken glass inside the boat. The keel is humming. It hums a higher pitch the faster we go. We have a leak in our rudder bearing and the flow of the leak increases the faster we go.more buckets per hour, that’s all.

But you know what, we are going to round Cape Horn in about 10 hours! That will be one of the major moments in my sailing career, even though it is the third time. Sailing from Wellington to the Horn is like a marathon or an Ironman of sorts. We put so much work and effort into sailing this thing that it is nice to reach a milestone so large. It is to be celebrated. I don’t know how, probably just in the fact that it wont ever be forgotten by each of us.


Pirates of the Caribbean