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Global Solo Challenge: No respite for festive celebrations in the Roaring Forties

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 30 Dec 2023 07:37 PST 30 December 2023
Ari Känsäkoski - ZEROchallenge - Global Solo Challenge © Ari Känsäkoski

Whilst life ashore has followed the calendar of festivities, with Christmas and the preparation for the New Year celebration, life for the 14 skippers at sea in the Global Solo Challenge has been marked by the incessant rhythm of Roaring Forties' lows sweeping by, with some dramatic developments as well as some important celebratory milestones achieved by many of the skippers.

We have written about the dismasting suffered by ZEROchallenge which has led to more than one sleepless night as all cards were put on the table in trying to assist Ari Känsäkoski in his salvage operation hoping to reach the safety of land with his boat from the remoteness of the location where his accident occurred. After nearly a week from dismasting Ari has managed to successfully complete a delicate refueling operation with Japanese Fishing Vessel Tomi Maru 58, which we described in our recent update.

Having more diesel on board will allow Ari to move further north, on the favourable side of a large high pressure system that is forming between him and Africa. A routing simulation based on Ari's availability of fuel, which now stands at 380 liters, a jury rig with both storm jib and trysail hoisted and the expected light following winds still indicates a very long and testing journey for the Finnish skipper who will probably take around 3 weeks to reach Durban on the east coast of Africa. Weather conditions may change and the final destination is not yet a firm decision, the immediate goal is to reach the belt of gentle favourable winds that will make this incredible feat somewhat more bearable.

Meanwhile, further east in the stretch of Indian Ocean between the Kerguelens and Cape Leeuwin, the fleet has faced a rapid fire sequence of low pressure systems bringing some grim and difficult sailing conditions for a large part of the fleet. Louis Robein experienced issues with his autopilot and is now having to firmly consider a stop in Australia to make good the support of the autopilot ram and resolve some cabling issues as well as repair a broken hydrogenerator, he described his Christmas as a day he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy, all celebrations had to be postponed.

Alessandro Tosetti who had stopped in Cape Town on the 23rd of December managed to carry out all the repairs he had planned and left on the morning of the 28th in rather unfavourable southeasterly wind conditions, which, however, are the seasonal norm at this windy tip of the African continent. Leaving Cape Town due east can often prove difficult, especially as the Agulhas current often adds to the misery of head winds making Cape Town often a costly pitstop in terms of time lost.

Ronnie Simpson was on the last stretch to Hobart at the time of writing and his pitstop will be made easier by the immediate prompt support by other US military veterans like him, whose colours he proudly carries around the world with the logo of Patriot Sailing. Hobart is not too far off route and Ronnie will be hoping to rejoin the fleet without a change in position in the fleet.

At the front of the fleet we are starting to run out of words to describe the incredible performance by Philippe Delamare on Mowgli whose regularity and pace have gained the admiration of many, even fellow competitors have openly expressed words of admiration whilst sailing in the same waters and fully understanding the amazing pace that the French skipper is setting. He has now passed the latitude of point Nemo, the remotest point from any emerged land on earth and has begun his dip south to reach the latitude of Cape Horn some 1600 miles ahead of him. He described isolation as a source of stress as he proceeds with caution in this last leg of remote waters.

Cole Brauer on First Light is his closest rival on the water and she recently celebrated the immense milestone of reaching the halfway mark and entering the last of the three oceans, the Pacific. Cole is looking forward to her Cape Horn rounding which, however, is still more than 4000 miles ahead, as she longs for better and warmer conditions.

Riccardo Tosetto reached the Longitude of Cape Leeuwin, with two of the three capes now under his belt, whilst tending to some small repair jobs such as the replacement of the top carbon batten of his mainsail and stitching a new tack point on his code zero which had torn a few days ago. Riccardo needed to stabilise the boat which was rolling violently in no wind and lots of residuals well when he tended to the mainsail batten and informed the organisers that he would opt to briefly engage the engine in gear to have enough speed to move under autopilot and not remain drifting offering the side to the rolling waves. A time penalty of one hour has been inflicted, which Riccardo will have to serve after Cape Horn within a time and geographical frame that will be communicated to the skipper.

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