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Southern Spars - North Technology

Groundhog Day close to Cape Horn

by Robert Williams on 11 Mar 2008
Antarctica Cup Racetrack position Antarctica Cup Racetrack © http://www.antarcticacup.com
As Antarctica Cup competitor Fedor Konyukhov and his Open 85 yacht Trading Network Alye Parusa drew to within 400n.miles of Cape Horn today, driven by 40-55knot West-Nor-Westerly winds, the 56 year old Russian was in reflective mood.

'When I go through my Log book it looks as if I am lost in time. The cold, rain, grey sky and pale ocean is continuous. Even my Latitude position stays the same. It has been 56° South for weeks. Every new day looks the same as the last.. Every day, the boat is on starboard tack. The are no ships and no birds – I have not even seen an albatross for a week.

These are Groundhog days.

The horizontal landscape is depressing. As an artist I have learnt a lot about the human eye and vision. We – people – need to see natural bright colours – greens, yellows, blues – they give us a positive impulse and lift our mood. Here in the Southern Ocean, the main colour is an uninspiring grey. The vision is hungry for colour.

I have to fight this 'everything is OK' attitude. It might be OK with this sail trim; it might be OK for Iceberg look out; I am OK; I am not hungry….and so on. I understand that sails need to be re-set and I have not checked for icebergs for the last 2 hours. On a short voyage you would never contemplate a compromised sail trim, but on a long and cold voyage like this, every move requires motivation.

It is not just sail trim. I have to force myself to cook something hot. From my previous experience of extreme expeditions, I know that my body is trying to switch into hibernation mode to save energy. But I still have a long way to go in similar or worse conditions. I can’t just let things go out of control and drift.

It reminds me of Everest and the Dead Zone above 8,000 meters – where your oxygen-starved brain tells you that everything is OK. Then it is sheer will-power that pushes you up (or down) and never lets you sit down or stand up. In these conditions your physical condition does not matter. The big muscles don’t help. It is stamina and endurance – these are the keys to successful long distance sailing. I only hope I have enough.

I know that I need a change. The best one will come with rounding Cape Horn. This will give a boost and energize my mood. Unfortunately I am progressing painfully slowly towards this South American tip in light winds, a big swell and with a damaged mainsail.

I had planned to be in the Southern Atlantic 11 days ago and the fact that we are not there is pressurizing me. Setting a fixed date to reach a way point in the Southern Ocean is not normally in my nature, but I know that a new ocean will refresh my emotions. my only goal now is to get to the Atlantic.

I am still sailing away from Albany (my start point in this Antarctica Cup challenge) Once I cross 62° West however, I will be sailing back towards Albany. Then every mile east will bring me closer to home. That is the best motivation.

Right now, I am in the middle section of the Antarctica Cup Racetrack. Being close to half way is always where you get maximum stress. I now appreciate just how difficult this route around Antarctica is.'

This will be Fedor’s fourth rounding of Cape Horn, and his second onboard Trading Network Alye Parusa. The Russian solo circumnavigator is staying within a 30n mile corridor between 56°30’ and 57° South, gybing each time he reaches these limits. Fedor reports heavy snow showers, very gusty winds and poor visibility. 'Who knows if there are any icebergs around, but the radar is on. Things could be worse!' he says!

http://www.antarcticacup.com/
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