The third leg of the Global Ocean Race has come to a close and there were indeed ups and downs throughout. We now look back at the action that took place.
The first night at sea for the five GOR Class40s was an upwind hammering as the fleet exited Cook Strait and dropped south-east towards the Chatham Islands. Encountering strong SE headwinds at 47S, fleet leader Buckley Systems turned back to New Zealand on the fourth day of racing with a serious injury to Ross Field’s back and Campagne de France simultaneously turned west and headed for port. With Cessna Citation the new leader and Financial Crisis in close pursuit, Phesheya-Racing encountered strong winds to the north and hove-to twice to ride out the storm and make vital autopilot repairs.
As Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis crossed the mid-Pacific, bluQube Scoring Gate, the separation for Phesheya-Racing grew to 1,000 miles as the leaders entered the Furious Fifties and dropped through an area of known ice with Cessna Citation spotting two bergs at 55S/106W.
Having built a lead of over 260 miles, Cessna Citation ran into a high pressure ridge at 60S, stopping dead as Financial Crisis gained and took the lead briefly after 18 days of racing. Regaining the lead, Cessna Citation continued towards Cape Horn, racing shoulder-to-shoulder with Financial Crisis and handing over the lead again 670 miles west of Cape Horn.
With a deep low pressure system rolling north-east from Antarctica and threatening massive seas in Drake Passage, Cessna Citation took off for Cape Horn at full pace, beating the weather system while Financial Crisis hove-to 380 miles SW of the Horn and rode out the storm. Rounding Cape Horn on Day 24, Cessna Citation sailed round Isla de los Estados, avoiding the risk of strong winds in Le Maire Strait, leaving the Falklands to starboard and hooking into strong reaching conditions off the coast of Patagonia, building a 500 mile lead over Financial Crisis when crossing the finish line after 31 days and 18 hours.
Leg 3 Week 1 (29 January – 4 February):
Strong start with headwinds forces two boats to turn west for port
At 15:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Sunday 29 February, the double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet started Leg 3 from Wellington, New Zealand, to Punta del Este, Uruguay, with a 6,300-mile course through the Pacific Ocean, around Cape Horn and through the South Atlantic ahead of the five Class40s.
In around ten knots of breeze, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel were first across the line with Cessna Citation, followed by the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire with Phesheya-Racing. Colman and Kuttel led the fleet east across the mouth of Evans Bay as the breeze built fractionally around Point Halswell, hoisting spinnakers and leaving Ward Island and Hope Shoal to port.
For a brief period the breeze died completely before switching through 180 degrees, forcing a beat and short tacking through the gap between the eastern shoreline of Wellington Harbour and the jagged, exposed rocks of Barrett Reef before rounding Pencarrow Head and exiting the 2km-wide harbour entrance.
Cessna Citation led the fleet out into Cook Strait with Ross and Campbell Field on Buckley Systems in hot pursuit and as the Class40s dropped south into the Pacific, the wind built quickly to 20 knots with a long rolling swell for the first night at sea, forcing the teams to reef as the sun began to dip.
With Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon taking a southerly flier with Financial Crisis parallel to the coast of South Island, the main pack dropped south east with speeds rising dramatically throughout day two as the Class40s raced south below Chatham Island with the boats reaching into the high latitudes on port in 25-30 knots of northerly wind. Having taken the lead early on Tuesday morning, Ross and Campbell Field hit the highest speed averages on their Tyker 40, Buckley Systems while the chasing Class40s, Campagne de France with Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron and Cessna Citation with Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel consistently delivering 13+ knots. , polling 14 knots,
On day four of Leg 3, encountering strong SE headwinds at 47S, fleet leaders Ross and Campbell Field on Buckley Systems turned back to New Zealand with a serious injury to Ross Field’s back and Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France simultaneously turned west and headed for port.
The forecast conditions of further strong conditions failed to materialise with the new fleet leaders, Conrad Colman and his South African co-skipper, Adrian Kuttel, running into light airs with Cessna Citation and reporting clear skies and sunshine at 47S, allowing the duo to dry clothes and gear in the cockpit of their Class40.
With the news of two boats heading for port, the three remaining Class40s kept in frequent communication as the weather eased.
Leg 3 Week 2 (5 February – 11 February):
Gales forecast at the bluQube Scoring Gate
The second week at sea for the three remaining Class40s still racing east began with continued strong headwinds for the trio in the Roaring Forties. Sunday 5th February marked the fifth consecutive day of headwinds and furthest north, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in third with Phesheya-Racing hove-to in short steep seas as the leaders, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel on Cessna Citation dropped south to 48S chased hard by Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon with Financial Crisis.
On Tuesday, Phesheya-Racing hove-to a second time to fix problems with their primary and secondary autopilots and while conditions moderated slightly for the two boats further south, more strong headwinds were forecast as the fleet approached the mid-Pacific, bluQube Scoring Gate. Having monitored the weather forecasts closely, the GOR Race Committee made the decision to extend the southern limit of the scoring gate by 180 miles early on Thursday morning, shifting the waypoint from 47S to 50S having evaluated that the boats were passed an area of ice south-west of the gate and the threat of beating into a gale in the most remote section of Leg 3 represented an unacceptable risk to the teams.
Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire take 3rd in Leg 3 with Phesheya-Racing
With the freedom of movement increased and the first taste of off-wind sailing for ten days, Cessna Citation pushed hard, recording averages of over 14 knots and rocketed through the bluQube Scoring Gate taking the maximum six points on Friday, followed through the virtual door by Nannini and Ramon on Saturday with Financial Crisis, handicapped by the destruction of their A2 spinnaker in a pilot error-enforced knockdown. As Nannini and Ramon reached the gate, an area of high pressure put the brakes on hard with Cessna Citation pulling away through the Furious Fifties. As the leading duo dropped south-east towards Cape Horn, the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing finally escaped the clutches of headwinds and steep seas and picked up the pace towards the scoring gate.
Leg 3 Week 3 (12 February – 18 February):
Dead calm in the Furious Fifties and iceberg sightings
Week 3 began with a taste of downwind sailing for the trio of Class40s in the Pacific. For the fleet leaders, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel on the Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation, swift progress was brief as the Kiwi-South African duo ran straight into a high pressure ridge with speeds dropping to sub-three knots. While the calm conditions allowed Adrian Kuttel to carry out some excruciating home-surgery on his badly infected finger nails, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon holding second place were piling in from the north-west with Financial Crisis and by Wednesday, both Class40s were elbow-to-elbow at 56S, as the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire crossed the bluQube Scoring Gate in third on Phesheya-Racing.
As the South Africans dropped south, hammered by a vicious cold front, Colman and Kuttel on Cessna Citation reported sighting two icebergs at 55S and vigilance was increased throughout the three boats as the leaders descended deeper into the Southern Ocean. By Friday, with just over 1,000 miles to Cape Horn, Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis were at 59S in light, frigid headwinds as Leggatt and Hutton-Squire continued to reel in the leaders. Early on Saturday GMT, Nannini and Ramon’s southerly option – dropping down to 60S – paid-off and Financial Crisis took the lead. Over Saturday night and Sunday morning the wind moved south and a fast reach to the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate for the two leaders was underway. For the front runners, speeds rose over Saturday night, peaking at an average of 11.5 knots for Financial Crisis at 09:00 GMT on Sunday as Nannini and Ramon climbed away from 60S with their course converging with Colman and Kuttel on Cessna Citation, taking the lead again after 20 days of racing through the Pacific.
Leg 3 Week 4 (19 February – 25 February):
Strategic dilemma with a strong forecast for Cape Horn
At 18:00 GMT on Sunday, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel re-took the lead with Cessna Citation as Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon climbed north with Financial Crisis, dropping back to second place as the new leaders built on their lead overnight. In third place with Phesheya-Racing, the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire reached 56S – the same latitude as Cape Horn 1,200 miles to the east – and passed the area of iceberg sightings reported by Cessna Citation in the middle of the previous week.
For the two frontrunners a tactical dilemma was developing as an intense low pressure system rumbled towards Drake Passage and Cape Horn. By Tuesday afternoon, both Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis had committed to their individual options with the hardest sailing of the circumnavigation so far for the two teams. Three options were available: Should Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis sail as hard as they can and attempt to outrun a gale that threatens Force 8-9 and pass through the shallow and treacherous passage ahead of the system? Should they battle on into Drake Passage towards a hostile coast with notoriously unpredictable conditions and hope their boats could withstand the punishment? Or should they slow down, judge the system’s track and – in theory - ride through the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate in the churning water behind the low pressure.
As the South Africans to the west on Phesheya-Racing dealt with their own demons in the shape of a high pressure system forecast to frustrate progress to Cape Horn, Colman and Kuttel pushed on fast for the cape and in the middle of the Southern Ocean night at 06:25 GMT on Wednesday 22 February, Cessna Citation crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate with the 28 year-old Kiwi, Colman, and his 41 year-old South African co-skipper, Kuttel, joining the ranks of Cape Horners and taking the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Trophy in memory of the late Chilean yachtsman and skipper of the first Class40 to round Cape Horn in the 2008-09 GOR.
Meanwhile, 300 miles west of Cessna Citation on Wednesday afternoon in second place on Financial Crisis, the Italian-Spanish duo hove-to at 57S, south-west of the cape, to avoid intercepting gale force winds sweeping up from Antarctica, carrying storm jib and four reefs in the main. Reporting that all was well on Financial Crisis, their skilled and text book hove-to manoeuvre worked comfortably in 35-45 knots and gusts up to 55 knots. As the low pressure moved on, heading for Cape Horn, and centred south-east of Financial Crisis, Nannini and Ramon were back in the game, tucking into the 30-knot south-westerlies on the back of the system while the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing were picking their way across the top of a high pressure system, slowing to under three knots as the light airs struck at 58S with 860 miles to Cape Horn.
At 23:25 GMT on Thursday 23 February, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 56S with Class40 Financial Crisis. Racing 49 miles off the infamous outcrop at the southern tip of Chile. Meanwhile, 370 miles to the north of Financial Crisis on Friday afternoon, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel were 150 miles off the coast of Patagonia with Cessna Citation having left the Falkland Islands to starboard on Thursday night. Although the breeze had gone lighter for the New Zealand-South African GOR leaders, around 400 miles to the north a deep low pressure is building with 50+ knot winds forecast before the system tracks eastwards and into the South Atlantic.
Leg 3 Week 5 (26 February – 3 March):
First boat home after 31 days
With Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire finally shaking off the light winds south-west of Cape Horn with Phesheya-Racing, the South Africans remained the only GOR Class40 in the Pacific as Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis left the Falkland Islands to starboard and raced north off the coast of Patagonia. Throughout the weekend, Colman and Kuttel increased their lead on Cessna Citation, digging into strong, 35-45 knots of south-easterly wind spinning off the back of a deep low pressure system and hitting 13-knots averages.
South-west of Financial Crisis by 445 miles on Sunday afternoon, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire had climbed up to 57S in their final approach to the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate, while leading the fleet towards the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Conrad Colman – who was made Seahorse Magazine’s Sailor of the Month – and his South African co-skipper, Adrian Kuttel, stayed in strong winds, but punishing seas, as they chased the low pressure eastwards into the South Atlantic with Cessna Citation, hanging onto the strong south-westerlies and attempting to avoid the light airs lurking in the system’s path. West of the Falkland Islands by 150 miles in second place, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon with Financial Crisis sailed straight into strong headwinds west of the Falklands encountering hellish conditions and frustratingly slow progress.
On Monday 27 February, Phesheya-Racing crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 18:01:54 GMT, winning the GOR’s Cape Horn Navigation Award instituted by GOR Race Committee member, Alan Green, for submitting their predicted Cape Horn ETA to within an astonishing one minute and 54 seconds when 1,000 miles west of the longitude of the Horn.
Meanwhile, after a slow final 24 hours crossing the 120-mile wide mouth of the Rio de la Plata, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel crossed the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in first place with their Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation at 18:37:30 local time on Wednesday 29 February (20:37:30 GMT). The 28 year-old Kiwi, Conrad Colman, and his 41 year-old South African co-skipper, Adrian Kuttel, took 31 days 18 hours 37 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the 6,300 mile course from Wellington, New Zealand, to Uruguay.
While personnel from the GOR Race Organisation were preparing to board RIBs at the Yacht Club Punta del Este and head into the South Atlantic for a rendezvous with Cessna Citation, it was noted that the South African Class40, Phesheya-Racing was near-stationary and very close to the Jason Island archipelago just north-west of the Falkland Islands mid-evening GMT on Wednesday. Calls were immediately made to family members in Cape Town and to the Class40 to confirm that yacht’s status and news quickly arrived that Phesheya-Racing had sailed straight into a raft of kelp and remained stuck and drifting towards the coast until Nick Leggatt dived into the freezing water and cut the kelp away.
Once freed, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire began beating into north-westerlies and holding averages of seven to eight knots as they climb north through the South Atlantic 250 miles off the coast of Patagonia while 500 miles to the north and 112 miles from the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon sailed along the coast of Argentina close inshore, passing the bright lights of Mar del Plata on Friday night and entering the mouth of Rio de la Plata at 14:00 GMT on Saturday.
Leg 3 Week 6 (4 March – 7 March):
Final two boats finish an epic voyage
The 33-year-old, Italian-Slovak skipper, Marco Nannini, and his 26-year-old Spanish co-skipper, Hugo Ramon, took second place in GOR Leg 3 with Class40 Financial Crisis, crossing the finish line in Punta del Este at 08:54:20 local (10:54:20 GMT) on Sunday, completing the long leg through the Pacific and South Atlantic in 35 days 08 hours 54 minutes and 20 seconds. While Nannini and Ramon took their first steps on land, to the south of Punta del Este by 500 miles, Phesheya-Racing of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire, was 200 miles off Patagonia’s Valdes Peninsular with continued headwinds as they beat north from the Falklands, suffering a severe knockdown in 35-40 knots, but surviving with headsail damage. On Wednesday 7 March, after a week of upwind sailing, the South African duo crossed the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este in third place with their Akilaria Class40, Phesheya-Racing at 16:26:20 local (18:26:20 GMT) taking 38 days 16 hours 26 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the course from Wellington.
GOR LEG 3 FINISHING POSITIONS AND BOAT DATA:
1. Cessna Citation: Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel (NZL/RSA). Akilaria RC2 Class40. Launched 2011. Finished 29/02/12 at 20:37:30 GMT. 31d 18h 37m 30s. Distance 6,682nm. Av SOG 8.76kts. Best Leg 3 24hrs 296.4nm 2. Financial Crisis: Marco Nannini/Hugo Ramon (ITA/ESP). First Generation Akilaria Class40. Launched 2008. Finished 04/03/12 at 10:54:20 GMT. 35d 08h 54m 20s. Distance 6,573nm. Av SOG 7.74kts. Best Leg 3 24hrs 274.5nm. Gap to 1st place 3d 14h 16m 50s. 3. Phesheya-Racing: Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire (RSA/RSA). First generation Akilaria Class40. Launched 2007. Finished 07/03/12 at 18:26:20 GMT. 38d 16h 26m 20s. Distance 7,026 nm. Av SOG 7.57kts. Best Leg 3 24hrs 272.3nm. Gap to 1st place 6d 21h 48m 50s. 4. Sec. Hayai: Nico Budel/Ruud van Rijsewijk (NDL/NDL). First generation Akilaria Class40. Launched 2008. Dismasted/RTD from Leg 2. DNS Leg 3. Re-joining Leg 4 & 5. 5.Campagne de France: Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron (FRA/GBR). Pogo 40S² Class40. Launched 2011. RTD Leg 3 6. Buckley Systems: Ross and Campbell Field (NZL). Tyker 40 Class40. Launched 2008. RTD for GOR during Leg 3.
GOR LEG 3 POINTS:
1. Cessna Citation 90 points
2. Financial Crisis 72 points
3. Campagne de France (RTD Leg 3) 56 points
4. Phesheya-Racing 48 points
5. Sec. Hayai (RTD Leg 2 and 3) 6 points Buckley Systems (RTD from GOR in Leg 3) 64 points
GOR POINTS SYSTEM EXPLANATION:
The time limit at a finishing line (not a scoring gate) will be 12 days after the first boat has finished, after which time any yacht not finished or retired will be scored DNF.
Scoring Gate Points: A multiplication factor of 1 will apply.
e.g With a six boat fleet – winner receives 6 points; second place receives 5 points, third place receives 4 points, last place receives 1 point.
Leg Points: A multiplication factor of 5 will apply.
e.g With a six boat fleet – winner receives 30 points, second place receives 25 points, third place receives 20 points, last place receives five points.
GOR LEG 3 FINISH LINE QUOTES:
Conrad Colman: “Sign me up for the next one! All the books make a big thing of gales at 60S, but there we were, sitting there twiddling our thumbs and looking stupid. We signed up for the worst, but the most unpleasant bit wasn’t the gales, it was the calms. We were in the middle of a sail change and Adrian said ‘There’s something over there’ [icebergs]. It gives me a good excuse to come back again and get closer look [not sighting Cape Horn]. We got a proper blow [off Patagonia] when we buried into a depression on the way up here and we had 50 knots at times and sustained 40s with boat speeds in the mid-20s pretty regularly. It’s astonishing because the boat just kept trucking and it was fairly easy. What a rocket ship this boat is. Being first out of Wellington and being first here is really very special.”
Adrian Kuttel: “It was fantastic sailing, just full-on. Sitting on deck, freezing with Marco and Hugo charging down on us was just terrible. The icebergs added a couple of grey hairs. There was some pressure there to get moving [outrunning the gale at Cape Horn]. The boat takes a beating and then comes back for more.”
Marco Nannini: “Who would have thought? Financial Crisis second overall! It must be a joke? We’re really very, very pleased. Personally, I had moments in the South when I thought that I don’t want to ever come back here. I know it only takes a few drinks afterwards and it’s all forgotten, but there were very tough moments. It was pretty much like sailing on the Grand Banks in the OSTAR,” reports Nannini of their trip to 60S. It’s just very, very miserable down there [60S] but we had very light winds when we were down there, which is surprising for where we were. When we came to Cape Horn we had to slow down and preserve the boat and I’m glad we did as we’ve arrived here in Punta with very little damage. I am absolutely determined to complete the circumnavigation and finish the race in Les Sables d’Olonne, so every decision is always based on limiting damage to the boat. Once we passed the Le Maire Strait we had 35-45 knots upwind which wasn’t forecast in the GRIB files. Nasty and slow, just going nowhere doing four knots. I think the last 1,200 miles from Cape Horn to Punta were some of the hardest of the leg with light and, usually, unfavourable winds. The stress of running this campaign has been enormous and demanding and I would only come back with a properly funded campaign. I’d be interested in running a team entry for the next GOR with proper funding and some new talent from Italy with an all-Italian entry.”
Hugo Ramon: “Looking back, being in the South was OK, but if you’re so close to land, you want to be on it and just looking at it is very painful! “It’s something that you can’t really imagine on shore [Southern Ocean]. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, or that it’s always uncomfortable, but it’s so different to life on land that sometimes you have to be there to feel the difference and appreciate what you have on shore. I’m going to miss Marco. He’s a lovely guy and for two very macho men to survive in such a small space is a truly great achievement! I don’t have the pressure that Marco has of running the campaign, so there is a lot more for me to enjoy and every moment is easy and fantastic while he has to worry about money and keeping the boat in one piece. So it’s really impressive the job he’s done. If someone gives me the opportunity, I’ll be back in the southern Ocean as soon as possible. Until then, I’ll be back at home in Mallorca working on my next round-the-world project.”
Nick Leggatt: “There weren’t very strong winds, only about 47 knots. But the sea state was just horrendous. As a front comes through, the wind shifts and the waves just turn into pyramids. We didn’t think the boat would fall apart, but we thought we might fall apart! One autopilot was completely cooked, but we re-wired it and although it doesn’t look like the way it should be wired in the manual, it does work. We thought we were clear of the Falklands and then the boat stopped completely and we were in a massive raft of kelp stretching out as far as the eye could see. It was time to go for a swim. With a wetsuit that is more suitable for the Caribbean, no boots or hood, I jumped in. It [kelp] just came off really, really easy and I got back on deck completely blue and frozen.”
Phillippa Hutton-Squire: “It [being hove-to] was like being at home, very steady and you even make a cup of tea. It was more the fear that we would have to turn round and head back to New Zealand that made us determined to fix the [autopilot] problem. The morale on board took a big dive. Both because we were so isolated in terms of safety with other boats, but also competitively. I don’t think it did us any good at all initially, going north to avoid the cyclone, and for the rest of the leg we were on our own, so it was big time in our minds. We were within a mile-and-a-half of Cape Horn on a beautiful day despite squalls coming over and rain, but we did manage to take some photos and of course we drank champagne. The Jason Islands are very steep and rocky and big waves were breaking over them and this focussed our attention remarkably!”