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Global Solo Challenge: The unforgiving waters of the southern oceans

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 27 Nov 2023 04:03 PST 27 November 2023
Cole Brauer - First Light © Cole Brauer Ocean Racing

The latest week in the Global Solo Challenge has seen the majority of the skippers at sea confront, some for the first time, the relentless and dynamic Southern Ocean.

As the fleet that has reached the South spreads from Tristan da Cunha to South of Australia, each skipper faces unique trials, embodying the spirit of solo sailing.

Cole Brauer: A sweet surge in the rankings

On 'First Light', Cole Brauer shared a touching story of "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" that have led to her participation in the Global Solo Challenge, now aiming to become the first female American sailor to sail solo non-stop around the world. Deemed to be too "small" during a "The Ocean Race" selection a year ago, Cole has put in an impressive performance so far, that saw her reclaim second place in the expected arrival virtual rankings as well as confirm she is standing "tall" in the challenges of the Southern Oceans. This extraordinary feat demonstrates the raw determination and skill required to take on the challenge to sail these unpredictable seas that make no "height" or indeed "gender" distinctions.

Philippe Delamare: A journey of ten thousand miles

Philippe Delamare on 'Mowgli' reached a significant milestone, having sailed 10,000 nautical miles. His journey through the Indian Ocean towards Cape Leeuwin is a testament to his meticulous preparations, impeccable navigation and boat conduct so far. With 15,000 miles still to go, including 8,000 in the harsh southern seas, Philippe's voyage is far from over. Upon entering his first deep low of the South Atlantic he had suffered two knock-downs in following breaking cross-seas. Since then Philippe has taken a slightly more conservative approach to his navigation as he tries to keep the average speed up but without taking too many risks. His goal is to preserve the boat through the South and round Cape Horn leaving the route back to A Coruna in the Atlantic as the "final race" for position. He is extremely well placed, his first position in the ranks has been quite commanding so far, however Cole Brauer's recent increase in daily mileage casts a shadow of doubt as to whether the margin Philippe has built so far will be sufficient to fend off the likely challenge by the young and determined American skipper. What is sure is that it's too soon to tell, Cole has only just hit the fast sailing conditions of the South, whilst Philippe has "used up" a third of the 12,000 southern ocean highway and will inevitably slow down after Cape Horn whilst the rest of the fleet, and Cole in particular, can keep clocking fast days.

Dafydd Hughes: two of three capes ticked

First to start on August 26 and slowest boat on paper, Dafydd Hughes kept his 1971 designed Sparkman & Stephens Bendigedig marching on day after day like a little Duracell bunny. His challenge is only made bigger by the size and speed his boat can attain, as his expected circumnavigation is estimated to take around 200 days. The word "estimated" well placed as Dafydd has so far only very briefly stepped off the top three in the ranks and often exchanged positions with Cole Brauer for second place depending on the miles clocked by each of the two skippers.

The growing fleet and their varied experiences

The fleet, now comprising fifteen sailors, each brings their own story to the vast expanse of the ocean. From Kevin Le Poidevin's recent departure to the experienced Andrea Mura on 'Vento di Sardegna', the range of skills and strategies on display is as varied as the ocean itself. Kevin was forced to delay his departure by nearly a month, from 28th October to 24th November due to a back injury and some technical issues on the boat. He was very relieved and excited to finally be at sea taking on the Global Solo Challenge after many trials and tribulations making it to the start line with all the complications in managing a campaign between Australia and Europe.

Andrea Mura on the other hand took the start of the GSC right on the mark at 2pm local time on November 18th. After a first bumpy 100 miles Andrea has pointed the bow south and started recording some serious mileage on his vintage Open 50 Vento di Sardegna which had participated in the 2000 edition of the Vendée Globe. Having set off nearly three months after Dafydd Hughes on Bendigedig, the task of catching up with the rest of the fleet may appear very daunting. Andrea's lifelong dedication to the sport and experience is starting to come through showing how fast he can actually go. In the first few days he was polling speeds that would place him at the back of the fleet on arrival but as soon as he hooked onto the trade winds his canting keel racing boat took off sailing pretty much alway above a 10 knots average. In a matter of days he has climbed the virtual ranking, "overtaking" most of the fleet to claim 5th place, after the other older fixed keel Open 50 in the event, Ronnie Simpson's Shipyard brewing, which has steadily held onto 4th place and even traded 3rd place at some stages. As he enters the southern atlantic his averages are increasing again and he could consolidate his 4th place as well as challenge once more Bendigedig's 3rd.

Continue reading the full article here...

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