Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) trio of Class40s continue on the third leg of racing from Wellington to Punta del Este.
Having crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 06:25 GMT on Wednesday at the head of the fleet, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel made a steep climb north-east out of the Southern Ocean with Class40 Cessna Citation. Leaving Cape San Juan at the eastern end of Isla de Los Estados to port almost 24 hours after rounding Cape Horn, Colman and Kuttel entered the South Atlantic on Thursday morning chased by the low pressure system they had outpaced at Cape Horn.
On Wednesday morning, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon, south-west of Cape Horn in second place on Financial Crisis, were underway again while the low pressure system moved ahead of them. As the Italian-Spanish duo pushed east, Marco Nannini was satisfied with the decision to hove-to: 'I think we found the right balance,' he confirmed late on Wednesday night. 'We had sustained winds of 40-45 knots with occasional gusts into the 50-55 range, in line with what we expected,' says Nannini. 'On two occasions we were hit by hailstone squalls and the only piece of advice I can leave you with is: Don’t look at a hailstone storm!' he advises. 'The small pellets of ice shot into your eyeballs at nearly 100 kilometres an hour and really hurt!'
Nannini and Ramon pursued the low pressure system towards Cape Horn, gradually increasing sail. 'We started sailing again during the night and when things seemed to have calmed down further, we changed from the smallest of sails, the storm jib, to the larger staysail and increased the area of the mainsail by removing the fourth reef and moving up to third reef,' he reported as Financial Crisis barrelled east averaging between nine and ten knots. 'We are surfing down the waves in 30-35 gusting 45 knots of wind and a rather messy residual sea which hopefully will start to ease over the next 12 hours.'
The gale peaked at Cape Horn at around 03:00 GMT on Thursday with Financial Crisis keeping up the pace 190 miles to the south-west as Nannini began to plot for another comeback. With the low pressure moving east from the cape and delivering strong WSW winds to Colman and Kuttel in the open water of the South Atlantic, the Italian skipper saw an opportunity. 'Interestingly, the strong winds will force them to go east of the Falklands,' reasons Nannini as the alternative would mean Cessna Citation beating into 30+ knots. 'This adds about 100 miles to their course, leaving us with a chance of cutting to the inside and perhaps closing some of the gap?'
At 12:00 GMT on Thursday, Cessna Citation was 114 miles south of the Falkland Islands holding a lead of 329 miles over Financial Crisis with just 93 miles remaining to the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate for Nannini and Ramon.
Meanwhile, 640 miles west of Financial Crisis, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire broke out of the light airs on Wednesday afternoon as the high pressure barrier ahead of them tracked to the north-east and Phesheya-Racing continued to drop down into the Southern Ocean reaching 58 degrees 39S at midday on Thursday. 'With the air temperature dipping below three degrees last night, the autopilot once again showed us why it is our best friend!' says Leggatt as the two South Africans shelter from the frigid conditions inside their Class40. 'Even though we are onto a jury rigged version of our back-up pilot after problems with both pilots earlier in the leg, this one is still gamely working away through all sorts of conditions,' he confirms.
With around 700 miles remaining to the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate, weather models suggest light northerly breeze for the South Africans for around three days as the high pressure embeds off the western coast of Chile. With complex conditions ahead, the South Africans have entered their Cape Horn ETA bid for the Cape Horn Navigation Prize at 02:18 GMT on Monday 27 February.
While Nick Leggatt will celebrate his sixth rounding of the cape, it will be a landmark for Phillippa Hutton-Squire: 'Phillippa is looking forward to being the first South African woman to skipper a racing boat around Cape Horn,' says Leggatt. 'But the honour of being the first South African woman to race around Cape Horn in a round-the-world race, we believe, should go to Lynnath Beckley, who raced aboard EF Language in the Whitbread Race, unless anybody knows any differently?' GOR leaderboard at 12:00 GMT 23/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 1161 9.7kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 329 9.9kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 973 7.8kts Global Ocean Race website