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Australian Solo sailor ahead of record as he rounds Tasmania

by Sail-World.com on 5 Jun 2010
Bottom of Tasmania Save Our Seas - Ocean Racing http://www.sosoceanracing.com/
Australian solo sailor Ian Thomson is edging towards Tasmania’s South East Cape and will soon be heading north again, with just 1592 nautical miles out of the total WSSRC 6542 nautical miles around the Australian coastline.

Thomson is aiming to break the 68 day record for sailing around Australia, non stop unassisted.


In the early hours of Day 32, the Airlie Beach sailor spoke to Sail-World, as he approached South East Cape, with just 25 percent of the course yet to sail.

‘It hasn’t been the Southern Ocean crossing that I had expected. Very anti-climactic because the ocean has not been what the Southern Ocean should be, or what I expected it to be should I say.

‘It is such a nice feeling to be on the Eastern sea board and I am now five nautical miles from the Southeast Cape.

'The glow of Hobart is just coming around the corner now.

‘I have already started climbing very, very slowly back to the north. Once I hit the Southeast Cape I start heading further north again, and that is going to be great to see the latitude numbers start climbing back from 44 toward the 20th lat. which is where I will end up back in Airlie Beach.

'Right now at the bottom of Tasmania, I probably have about 15 knots of breeze and it is from the northwest so that big island is just protecting everything so it is flat as a tack.

'Around Maatsuyker Island which is notorious for being incredibly rough, it was the same. I cruised through there within a nautical mile of it. I couldn’t get any photos because of course it is pretty black down here, but yeah it’s just the whole Southern Ocean has just been flat apart from Day 2 when I got to a 35 knots maximum. A lot slower than I expected, it is kind of a shame because I actually looking forward to seeing how fast this boat could go in the big open ocean swells.

'Maybe I will have a chance across Bass Strait to open her up even with the reef in her.

'I am limping quite severely now, in the last 24 hours I have blown out two kites, both kites that were suitable for winds between 10 and 25 knots.

'One of them last night, just after dark, I had a problem with the spinnaker sock coming down from the top of it, it only came half way down and when I went to pull it down it ended up trolling in the water and it got wrapped around my keel there, the prop. I still have a little bit hanging off the bottom there. That totally destroyed my favorite A3 spinnaker, which has done such a good job until now.

'Then this morning I put up the A5 spinnaker and put a nice big tear in, I might have enough sticky back to put it back together again. At this stage it looks like I am limping home, quite severely.

'I still have three reefs in my mainsail. At this stage I hoping that I can shake a reef out but I will probably wait until I get across Bass Strait to even attempt anything; just in case something goes severely wrong. You just never know.

'The boat us quick, even at the moment in 15 knots with the winds on the beam and slightly behind – I am still doing 7 knots. I am not really disturbed; I know that there is a big front coming through sometime tonight, so I am not too worried about it for the next couple of days – which will probably save me most of the way getting across Bass Strait.

'The boat is quick enough that I will set the record, its just a matter of getting home. It is probably not going to be as quick as I wanted it to be. At the end of the day I only have to beat 68 days, and making it is more important at the moment rather than smashing in an extra couple of days.

'I still have the furling headsail which is the new one made by Doyle in Brisbane. Its bullet proof, it is doing a wonderful job.

'I have a spare headsail, I have a Code 0 and I have an A2, so the Code 0 and then A2 are good up to about 10 knots, anything above that they are not that good. The A5 was good for shy work of about 10 knots up to about 25, and the A3 has been working out for up to about 20 knots so it was sad to lose the A3.

'That was probably one of the best spinnakers I ever had. I actually had to cut it free last night. Taking a knife to a spinnaker is never fun.

'I just downloaded the last weather forecast; which the low front will get me out of from under this high pressure system. It should take me up to the rest of the East Coast of Australia, which means I should have a fair bit of wind the rest of the way up.

'For the last eleven days I've had no Internet to get weather files and so I have been quite blind and so Duane Hand from Maxsea has been helping me in the last three days with a bit of weather. I gave him the polars for the boat, and he has just run what I would run, except for text messages and an occasional phone call.

'Basically at this stage, we have done really well, he has told me where I needed to be and that is what I have done.

'The other person I've talked to during the Southern Ocean run from Cape Leeuwin is my mum. My mum has been on the phone all the time. She is in Melbourne, and I think she should be going for her own world record for the person over 50 who has been on the Internet the most since I’ve left. It is pretty funny.

'From here on speed-wise, with a reduced sail inventory, it all comes down to angles, I will try and repair that A5 to give me something between that 10 and 20 knot range. I will just have to take it really, really easy with it. Apart from that I will just get there when I get there.

'The marine traffic is set to increase of course. In the Southern Ocean, my sleeping pattern has been great because I’ve been able to let it go, like for an hour at a time – I still do it every hour because you just never know what is going to happen.

'Anything that you expect out there are the big ships which I guess they will actually come up and send off one or more warning alarms. At the end of the day, now I am back into a range, I’ve had to turn my radar back on tonight, so that I can pick up the small ships, small private boats and all that.

'I’ve got a solar panel up on the coach top and I am not doing much at the moment, it’s been pretty cloudy down here, get up the coast maybe it will start kicking in. I have no excuse with diesel, I should be home somewhere between 10 and 12 days, I’m guessing. I have plenty of diesel to get me through that, at least 100 litres.

'What am I eating? The food situation, it has all been dry food, just add water and cook it up. The main thing is I’m getting low on milk. Because I don’t have refrigeration on board I use long life milk. Once I open it, I have to pretty much use it within a day down here. I think I have 6 litres of milk left. So I am going to run out of milk before I get half way up the coast. But then I have all rations and a few other things. The cereal, I can have that with water and juice. I am going to be looking forward to some nice fresh food when I get home, I can tell you that.

'I’ve been losing weight. I have started realizing how bony I have got around my hips in particular. When I am sleeping, I can actually feel the bones on the mattress, the truth. The last time I was down to this little weight was when I was wind-surfing every day, back in 2002.

'My auto pilot is doing a wonderful job. I nicknamed her Lisa after the girl who came to Gladstone with me when my original autopilot failed on the start line, and I had Lisa on board and she ended up coming all the way even though she had planned to get off before the start. She acted as my auto pilot in the race at Gladstone so I nicknamed my auto pilot Lisa.

'It is steering the majority of the time. It is a self-learning auto pilot; it has pretty much learned the boat. It is steering really, really well and on the dark nights, like tonight without the moon, it holds it course better than I do. You just can’t see out there, it is pitch black, so Lisa is steering our course better than I do. I actually enjoy sitting back and letting it do the job.

During the day I will always get on there especially when the spinnakers were up, just because I enjoy sailing a boat. You push it a bit harder when you are on it yourself, apart from that; it is doing a wonderful job.

'It is amazing how little wildlife I have seen, apart from the albatrosses. The albatrosses are such a spectacular creature, the wing span on the big ones are incredible. But it is the little fellows that really captured my attention because they are just darting around like little fighter planes, especially as I got close to the coast. The little baby ones were just cool, just chasing each other and yes, they are incredible creatures when they swim around. It took me about 5 days to actually see one sitting in the water, most of the time they are always just gliding around; apart from that, nothing in the water at all, absolutely nothing apart from the spinnaker.

'The East Coast current is probably running around at about 2 ½ to 3 knots just south of Sydney there. My plan at this stage is to just stick inside it and just run up the coast.

'I trust my steering and warning systems. It’s just one of those things where you just have to – I could go outside but at this stage, I’ve just got internet reception and I have to download the latest forecast and find out what I am going to do.

'I am just looking forward to heading north and for me now, the East Coast – I’ve sailed the whole East Coast. It’s a reverse Sydney to Hobart. Then Sydney to Southport, Brisbane to Keppel, then Keppel to Airlie Beach I will just do it in stages of races I’ve done.

'Right now I have sailed 75% of the Australian circumnavigation course, but there is no record for being fastest for that. I have to get back to Airlie Beach and so will need to nurse this tough little Welbourne 40 the rest of the way.'

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