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Ocean Globe Race Leg 3 - Champagne Sailing

by Ocean Globe Race 22 Jan 04:48 PST
Board games for the birthday boy skipper Tapio on Galiana WithSecure. Probably not how most people imagine the Cape Horn leg - but it's early days and it's not Tapio's first rodeo in these notorious seas © OGR2023 / Galiana WithSecure

Fresh tuna sashimi, sunbathing on deck, board games in the cockpit, surrounded by flocks of albatross and pods of dolphins in 15 knot winds on the aft-stern. No! This is not a line from a cruise brochure but the reports from THE SOUTHERN OCEAN OGR crews a week into leg 3, the 'notorious' Cape Horn leg.

  • Crew bask in the sunshine FOR A WEEK - holding their breaths for what's to come.
  • Triana FR (66) leading in IRC. Galiana WithSecure FI (06) and White Shadow ESP (17) showing what the 'smaller' yachts can do.
  • Yachts so close they can smell each other, adding pressure to keep up high speeds.
  • Explorer AU (28) hunting down the pack - playing the tortoise and the hare?

It's fair to say these adventures are having the time of their lives and whilst the phrase 'Champagne Sailing' is overused, on this occasion, it's certainly warranted. They're all saying it, again and again and again, with some protesting a little too much, arguing they ARE actually racing and not 'on holiday'.

Most are relishing their 'holiday' but underneath all the bravado remains a collective air of caution. These sailors are wise enough, we hope, to know what's just around the mythical 'nautical corner'. Cape Horn is notorious for a reason. They enjoyed the sun and fun - it couldn't last - but it was entertaining to hear about it while it did.

"Oh man, it's like Champagne sailing at 45 degrees south. It's shorts and T-shirts, blue skies, the stars are out at night and there are dolphins, it literally could not be any nicer. Right now we have Pen Duick VI right off our starboard beam, we can see their kite, and we can see people walking around on deck, it really is cat and mouse. The focus is definitely higher when we can see another boat." - First Mate Rachel Burgess onboard Maiden during their weekly satellite call

But sadly for Maiden and the rest of the crews, the holiday is coming to an abrupt end.

"Grey skies have set in!" Tweeted Maiden shortly after.

Maiden and Pen Duick VI FR (14) have on occasions been just 1 nm apart - making it appear on the tracker that one or the other has in fact disappeared! Listen to Pen Duick's latest SoundCloud recording here.

After the dramatic spaghetti junction start in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland on January 14th, the 12-strong fleet (Explorer AU 28 started two days later) have enjoyed mostly 10-20 knot northeasterly winds helping push them towards the desired southerly direction. Nothing too challenging or daunting - resulting in a very, very tightly packed fleet, making the line honours ranking almost null and void at this point with mere miles separating the fleet. Translated 9 are leading at time of writing.

But this is not to say it's not been interesting - the contrary in fact - over the previous 2 legs we've become accustomed to seeing Translated 9, Pen Duick VI, Maiden and Spirit of Helsinki top the leaderboard in both line honours and IRC. But, for a few days at least, there were some new kids on the block! Triana, a Swan 53 skippered by Jean d'Arthuys and one of the smallest yachts in the fleet is leading in IRC ranking. She has raced hard since the start in Southampton, no doubt pushed by professional sailor First Mate Sébastien Audigane who is no stranger to Cape Horn having sailed there six times. The 'little boat that could', is punching way above her weight and definitely one to watch. It's going to be very interesting indeed when the going gets tougher, the winds stronger and the waves bigger - which is happening right now!

"Back to cold and grey conditions! Couple of hectic sail changes in 30 knots today" tweeted Triana.

It's not too surprising that the Italians onboard Translated 9, the 1977 Whitbread entrant ADC Accutrac, with skipper Simon Curwen of Golden Globe fame, at time of writing is first in line honours for this leg. They're used to leading the pack - they hold first overall after leg 1 and leg 2. Co-skipper, Marco Trombetti, despite being a little confused about what day or time zone he was in, was relishing the warm conditions.

"It's sunny, we have albatross around us, going downwind - time is not important. It started very differently from what we expected, we expected it to be very tough but in the beginning, it was quite easy. It gives us time to get prepared for Cape Horn." - Marco Trombetti, Translated 9

Marco seemed very unperturbed by having 'popped' (dislocated) his elbow earlier in the week. Apparently, he 'popped' it back in place and all is well with the world!

But, of course, it was only a matter of time before things were to change.

"Beginning to feel colder as we push further south. Now further south than in the Indian Ocean as we hunt more favourable winds" tweeted Translated 9 not long after.

But what is very interesting indeed was witnessing Galiana WithSecure FI (06) and White Shadow ESP (17) a Swan 57, placing 3rd and 4th in IRC during the first week - a refreshing change to the look of the leaderboard. Galiana WithSecure, a Swan 55, is the oldest yacht in the OGR fleet at 53 years old - proving once again age is all in the mind. Ironically, the oldest yacht has the youngest crew in the fleet!

It is, of course, VERY early days, and the 'real' Southern Ocean weather hasn't truly reared its ugly head yet, but it's certainly a talking point to see the smaller yachts giving the leaders a run for their OGR entrant fees.

As for White Shadow, the Spanish entrant known for their happy party crew, they were right up there with the bigger, 'racier' entrants.

"We're racing in extremely good conditions right now with sun and light winds so this is cool as we have a period of adaptation. We had a good start, we went fast and apparently, we are pretty well ranked at the moment so we're all very happy." - White Shadow Skipper Jean-Christophe Petit

They seemed even a little surprised about their own position in the fleet tweeting.

"Waou! WS in the fleet leaders. Our votes for explaining reasons why? A) Crew getting better. B) Ranking system has a bug. C) We have paid Don with tortillas" tweeted White Shadow.

Let's hope their latest tweet doesn't alter things too dramatically.

"Virus Shadow x WS: 2 down, 2 recovered. Fortunately, we are 12 so we have still many arms to keep us ahead fleet. 2 viruses r cough & wc emergency".

The yachts continue to make good progress towards the desired 50 degrees south point, with speeds averaging eight, nine, 10 knots at times - passing the first waypoint they must keep to starboard.

Well, some are the yachts are making south at least! The Swan 651, Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) another former Whitbread, currently sitting in 2nd in IRC ratings overall after the first two legs has taken a VERY easterly route - a decision some might question - unless they know something the rest of us don't? Only time, and wind, will tell. At time of writing, they are 12th in IRC ranking - they won't like that one little bit!

A few eyebrows are being raised that three former Golden Globe skippers/navigators, Mark Sinclair (AKA Captain Coconut) on Explorer, Jeremy Bagshaw on Sterna and Ian Herbert-Jones on Spirit of Helsinki have all chosen an easterly route, staying far higher than the traditional 50 degrees south route. This could be a hangover from the GGR that they were NOT allowed down there? Only Simon Curwen on Translated 9 has dipped near 50 degrees. A coincidence?

Former Whitbread winner and three-time Whitbread entrant L'Esprit d'équipe FR (85) had some running repairs to complete after race start including broken batten cars and a damaged spinnaker. Sitting closest to Spirit of Helsinki, they too are now waiting for some bigger winds and seeing what the Southern Ocean has to throw at them.

"For the moment the 40th are mewing more than roaring, another fine summer's day under spinnaker" tweeted L'Esprit d'équipe.

Earlier in the week it had looked like Evrika FR (07), a Swan 65 would follow Spirit of Helsinki's lead but clearly made a tactical choice and decided to change tack and stick with the rest of the fleet.

"Decision taken to play our card by going south in search of wind. Fleet nearby. Nice chat at the VHS" tweeted Evrika, who'd reported freezer issues earlier in the week.

The close-quarter sailing is certainly getting the yachts riled up - not wanting to surrender a mile. Evrika's change in strategy didn't go unnoticed by the Baltic 55, Outlaw AU (08).

"The afternoon watch came on deck to the sight of Evrika on the horizon. The challenge has been set, catch her" tweeted Outlaw. At time of writing Evrika was 13nm ahead.

And there was no denying crossing the date line caused more than a little confusion on board some of the boats, including former Whitbread entrant Neptune FR (56). They are at present the most southerly yacht - and benefiting from the decision.

"This week, we had an 8-day week with 2 Thursdays Why is that? We'll leave you to discuss that amongst yourselves, dear Neptunians" tweeted Neptune.

Meanwhile, Sterna SA (42) has made up ground after a slow start. They too had to complete running repairs en route after breaking their inner forestay. Skippered by another Golden Globe sailor Jeremy Bagshaw, the crew of the Swan 53 impressed many in Auckland with their determination and grit to get back on the startline just six after arriving. They are now well and truly in the mix and no doubt determined to stay there.

"Still going strong with spinnaker up. Changed boat time to UT. Crew slightly confused by the new time concept but will survive. Dinner at 6 am" tweeted Sterna.

Explorer AU (28) is sailing fast. Slipping lines two days after the rest of the fleet due to the engine's fuel injector needing replacing the Swan 57 has picked up the pace, the crew finally seeming determined to make it to Punta del Este in time for at least one party. They should continue to make gains over the coming days with lighter winds predicted for the lead pack.

"Starry skies above, luminescent sea below. Cape Horn, here we come" tweeted Explorer.

And if there is anyone out there eager to join the explorers on Explorer for Leg 4, Uruguay to UK, get in touch. One of the seven women crew has been forced to rethink plans so a place has become available for a paying crew member with survival certificate and Euro 9000 - all genders welcome! Contact ASAP for all the info.

Thank you once again to Tataki Auckland Unlimited and their unyielding support.

To follow your favorite yacht, follow the tracker: oceangloberace.com/livetracker

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