The Global Challenge had winds of 10 knots or less on 22 days of their last leg. Project director Andrew Roberts crunches the numbers

For the Global Challenge, the Southern Ocean leg from Cape Horn to Wellington always tends to be lighter than the second Southern Ocean leg across the Indian Ocean to Cape Town. During Leg 2 of the Global Challenge all the yachts reported that the Southern Ocean was in a benign mood, but analysis of winning yacht Spirit of Sark’s logbook revealed some interesting facts.

The mean wind speed recorded by Spirit of Sark between Cape Horn and Wellington was just over 17 knots. This does not include gusts or squalls. It should be remembered that even though the average wind speeds were lower than might be expected, in high latitudes the wind is very much colder and denser and therefore cannot be compared with similar wind speeds in more temperate climates.

The highest mean wind speed recorded by Spirit of Sark was 39 knots in the Cook Strait and the second highest was 38 knots just after rounding Cape Horn. These are both fresh gales, in areas where rapid shoaling throws up very big, difficult seas, as illustrated by photographs.

Spirit of Sark’s lowest mean wind speed was 2.1 knots and there were 10 days during which the wind speed dropped to 5 knots or less and 22 days on which winds of 10 knots or less were recorded.

Despite the conditions, Spirit of Sark actually sailed 6,520 miles at an average speed of 7.5 knots, which is slightly faster than LG Flatron’s time in 2000-2001, when conditions were more favourable.

Spirit of Sark’s track through the Southern Ocean took her down to 58 degrees 37mins South, whereas Imagine it Done went the furthest south to 60 degrees 15 South. All the yachts recorded snowstorms and extreme cold in the southern latitudes,, especially when the wind blew straight off the Antarctic pack ice.

Wind chill can become a serious problem in those conditions and so the right foul weather gear and middle layers of clothing are absolutely essential. The Musto Ocean MPX, Goretex two piece and one piece foul weather gear provided proved to be exceptionally durable and required remarkably few repairs after 15,000 tough miles

Almost as soon as the yachts had stormed into Wellington Harbour and the celebrations had subsided the planned maintenance program kicked in. In less than a week after the first yacht arriving 11 masts had been unstepped and 5 yachts were safely ashore and work started.

One of the first actions by the skipper and crew is to empty the yacht of virtually all loose gear and equipment and put it into a container. This allows all the equipment to be checked and servicing to be carried out

The Wellington stopover is the major inspection and maintenance port of the race. As well as being half way round the world it is where nearly all the preparations for the very tough leg to Cape Town take place.

Because safety is paramount, minute inspections of the masts and spars are undertaken by Charlie Hutton and Nick Wellspring of Atlantic Spars (the mast makers) and of the rigging by Peter Lucas and Neil Gledhill of the Challenge Support Team. These inspections have shown that there is very little damage to the mast and spars and, together with the rigging, are in extremely good condition.

For the third successive Global Challenge the yachts are being lifted ashore by an 85-year old floating steam crane, the Hikitia. Once ashore, detailed inspections can take place below the waterline including of the rudders and keels. Any necessary refairing, touching up and antifouling is carried out.

The relatively light conditions are a contributory factor to the overall amount of damage being remarkably small. BG Spirit has some topside damage possible from a whale, and Spirit of Sark and BP Explorer had very minor (non structural) bottom panel indentation, probably sustained in the very hard going of the Cook Strait.

Virtually all the of the 216 sails in the fleet have been landed for inspection but only 5 spinnakers and 1 genoa need major repairs. 1 spinnaker was lost over board and will be replaced, and approximately 150 sails need minor repairs.

The Hood sail repair team headed by Tom Braistead from the Newport (USA) loft assisted by Phoebe on secondment to the Sydney (Australia) loft from Hood Germany, and the local team from Lynton Sails have already made significant progress.

At the same time Challenge Support Team members Peter Pierce and Tony Pearson are doing the mechanical repairs and maintenance and Keith Baxter the electrical and electronic work. Paul Tanner does the work requiring a skilled boatbuilder.