The Southern Ocean may still have Aviva in its grip, but Dee is battling through towards the Cape 22/3/06

Date21 March 2006 22:16

PositionS 40° 43′ / E 54° 51′

Aviva and I have been through a much more vigorous front than we anticipated. We received advice from Mike last night that a secondary low had developed along the cold front from the depression to the south of us. In order to avoid the worst of the wind we altered course for a few hours to head a little further south to enable us to sail through the centre of the secondary low. We achieved this and spent about five hours moving very slowly and heading north. As we reached the far side of the centre of the low we were hit by much more wind than we bargained for. I noticed that the boat speed was getting slower and got myself dressed to go on deck. After crawling through the companionway hatch it was clear that we were completely overpowered and were being pushed on our side. The reason the boat speed had dropped was because the speed transducer located in the bottom of the hull wasn’t in contact with the water very often. The top guardwire that is thigh height if I stand next to it was in the water and we were slowly going sideways. I had more deck in the water than I had hull!

I eased the mainsail in the hope that we would return upright a little. It helped but I desperately needed to get the staysail furled away. I eased the sheet and while it was flogging in the wind, winched like mad on the furling line. I straddled the coaming to get a better balance and had the foot on the deck resting against the footrest. The water rushing past was up to my knees and was slowly filling my boot. The only saving grace for this scenario is that the sea temperature had risen enough that the sensation didn’t take my breath away. I just had a wet foot, sock and boot. After this work was complete, Aviva started sailing better but the ride was extremely wet, windy and bumpy.

The sky was deceiving, a brilliant blue with fluffy white cumulus clouds in it, the barometer was rising and yet the wind was still screaming around the rigging. Tonight the sky has remained clear and the stars are littering the sky, but the wind is taking a while to ease, as is the sea state. One of the most difficult things to do when you are racing is raising the sails again after the depression has passed through, as you are normally tired and have just had a bit of a battering. But if you can do that when others are still recovering you can gain some mileage on them, thankfully I am not racing another yacht as I think I will need to be absolutely certain that conditions are easing before I rush to put more sail up. First I have some food and drink to catch up on.

Once again it is the middle of the night that brings the start of the light airs. We have once again returned to full sail and are waiting for the fickle winds to fill from the northern sector. We have another depression to negotiate which will entail us heading south of track again. Fingers crossed this will be the final time and then we can continue to head west north west and exit the roaring forties for the first time since we were sailing south down the Brazilian coast line, last year.

Dee & Aviva

Latest shore team commentary from Personal Coach, Harry Spedding

Whilst Dee has spoken of having the end of the Southern Ocean in sight, the forces of nature have more to say. The email she sent me last night was short due to the keyboard jumping around, and she is again suffering form lack of sleep. A powerful front has meant that she has had rapid changes in sail plan, trim and sailing direction, on the other side of the front she expects fickle winds, again not allowing her any rest. This will be followed by another of our old friends, a secondary low. Mike has routed Dee to try and get south of this low and avoid the worst of the head winds.

So, despite all the thoughts and conversations around leaving the Southern Ocean behind, she is still very much battling her way to the end. There is no doubt that Aviva’s proximity to the Cape of Good Hope has helped to lift Dee psychologically. She will use this lift to give her energy for the coming week. She still very much needs sleep and she will be praying for more consistent breeze to allow her to rest.

It will be another week or so before she turns into the Atlantic, and in that time the Southern Ocean will no doubt have a point or two to make.