Despite ending up with an 'Action Man' scar, Cheyenne crewmember Nick Leggatt says he would do the Round the World Challenge again, right now
Having caught up with much needed sleep, Steve Fossett and his 11-man crew who broke the round the world speed record on Monday (see news story here) were up and about again early the next morning in the biting cold breeze tending to their mighty stead.
With her 147ft mast towering high into the sky and her giant 125ft hulls dwarfing everything around her as she lay moored up on the outside berth of Mount Batten Marina, Cheyenne was, not surprisingly, the centre of attention. She’d just broken the Round the World Speed Record by nearly six days, covering over 25,000 miles in 58 days 9 hours 32 minutes 45 seconds and, apart from the repair job to the main beam pin up forward, aesthetically she didn’t look any worse for wear.
South African crewmember Nick Leggatt talking about the challenge believes they really did have an amazing amount of luck. Commenting on the near disasters Leggatt said: “The first major thing to go was the forestay. We were lucky the mast didn’t fall down. And then the mast track ripping off, that was also quite a major problem see news story here . But probably the biggest thing – just 10 days ago – was breaking the front beam bearing which is what holds the boat together. There was literally one inch of the pin left in. If that had fallen out then the boat would have split in half.” See news story here.
Interestingly despite his amazing enthusiasm about the trip, Leggatt was probably one of the most unluckiest crewmembers, ending up with a nasty ‘Action Man’ scar just below his left eye. The accident happened in the Southern Ocean in the midst of a cold front when the boat was lurching around in the big seas. Leggatt explained: “Guillermo [Altardill] was the first casualty. He was on the helm and he got thrown halfway overboard by a massive wave. He bruised his ribs and wasn’t in very good shape. At that point we thought we’d slow down and be a bit more careful. But even when you slow this boat down you’re still doing 25kts, so it’s not that easy. I was on the next watch and while trimming the mainsail same thing happened – got hit by a wave doing 25kts! I felt myself getting lifted in the air and I was plonked head first onto the compass – there was a bit of damage to the compass, a nasty gauge on my cheek cutting it right down to the bone, and plenty of blood!”
Weather routing and navigation – the key to any successful ocean challenge – is where Team Cheyenne really excelled. Adrienne Cahalan (navigator) and Steve Fossett worked hard together with the weather routers ashore and came up with a plan optimising the conditions. Leggatt continued: “Navigation was such that we had ideal, fast sailing conditions. Interestingly, the nasty weather system near the coast of Brazil was probably what got us the record. Normally in the South Atlantic you have to sail a couple of thousand miles extra to go round the high pressure system and we were told this low pressure system was developing off Brazil and so that meant that we could sail just straight up the Atlantic which normally you can’t do, so that worked really well for us. We knew that we’d got north of the low pressure we’d run out of wind and when we got up there the system had split into two lows. We sat there completely becalmed and were considering whether we should go further up the coast and round the other low and then we decided not to which was lucky because the second low turned into hurricane force winds, so we just missed that one.
“The scariest moment of the trip was probably two miles from the finish when we sailed around the north coast of Ushant to the finish line. There are some really strong tidal races there. We hit some massive waves. All of a sudden I had these flash backs about the front beam bearing and the forestay. At that point I was standing on the leeward side looking up at the mast and I thought this is not a good place to be standing.”
And would he do it again? Leggatt concluded: “Too right I would. In fact given the chance I’d be straight on that boat to do the whole thing again – right now!”