Robin Knox-Johnston's latest log from the Velux 5 Oceans Race 20/12/06

Log date Wednesday 20 December 2006
Position Latitude 44 24 South Longitude 093 10 East
Miles To Fremantle 1,303 nm
Average Speed In 24 Hours 10.01 knots
Distance In 24 Hours 243.9 nm

The gale forecast for just south of our position decided to expand and caught Saga Insurance for most of yesterday and now it has decided to move north a touch more, so although I moved north to avoid it, it obviously likes me and has moved up with me. The good news is that we have a favourable wind I suppose. The swell has not been great but the seas became very rough and we got thrown around a lot. We also did some almost alarming surges, 27.6 knots on one occasion. That’s very exciting, but its alarming because you are totally out of control and have to rely on the common sense of the boat to keep hurtling in a straight line and not decide to sheer off. If it does that you can find yourself beam on to a breaking wave and you don’t want to do that as that is when heavy rolls occur and the heaviest can push you so far over the mast goes into the water and not all masts survive that treatment..

So it was pretty uncomfortable for the human occupant as well as the motion was very jerky, one minute accelerating the next braking and rolling in between. There is not much you can do around the boat in circumstances like that, and its best to be somewhere semi braced so that whatever happens you cannot be thrown too far. As usual the most dangerous time seems to be as the wind starts to ease. The waves are no smaller, about 10 metres by this time, but the boat lacks the same power and does not outrun the waves so easily. That’s when the waves start to push the boat around. She recovers remarkably quickly, but having the stern pushed round 45 degrees, then a cross wave break over the boat and flood the cockpit, which happened three times, is not comfortable. Fortunately very little water got below, although it is alarming to look out the access hatch and see a large waterfall. The answer was, I suppose, to put up more sail, but when, in between the waves breaking over the boat you are getting surges of 25 knots, you do not feel that more sail is necessarily the most intelligent option!

So now we are onto the tactics for finding Fremantle. It was straightforward, just sail for it, but the weather has thrown its dice unfavourably yet again. Not only do we have this high between us and Fremantle, it is moving east and just when I ought to be within fast striking distance of that port the high is going to create quite strong easterly winds along the Australian west coast. That’s Christmas day, which is as far ahead as I can get weather. The magic computer programme has just predicted our arrival on Christmas Day, but I note it has us doing 15 knots to windward for two days so it has obviously got our polar diagram confused with something else. All this probably means I am going to have to sail the two side of the triangle, not the hypotenuse, and there will be a period of light winds in there as well. So arrival on the 27 December now looks a bit unlikely I am afraid. I have given up worrying about it. Sometime I will arrive in Fremantle but it has become a bit pointless worrying about when. I think it is the Australians trying to keep an avid England cricket supporter away from the ashes series, but as they have won the thing anyway, this seems a bit vindictive!

This is one of those days when I wonder why I started it. Not just the weather turning on me, the water container fell over when I was making water, losing me two gallons, then decided not to work for well over an hour. OK, my fault, should have lashed it better and it did eventually produce. The waves have not gone down, a batten, one of the new repairs, has broken, this computer has gone over sensitive, the Maxsea programme has lost my Polars, and the genneker sheet broke loose and went overside, scientifically wrapping itself around the starboard rudder. It got short scientific shift in being sorted and brought back aboard! Yesterday, had that high not appeared I had a good chance of arriving on the 26th, now it is the 28th, if I am lucky.