Brian Thompson, skipper aboard the Oryx Quest yacht Doha 2006 sent this latest report from deep in the Southern Ocean

All well on board Doha 2006. We continue our path to Cape Horn, now 1,800 miles away. The boat is in great shape and the team is well and healthy; we have a 1200 mile lead over Cheyenne, so no complaints from me.

Of course, we are still 700 miles from the halfway point, let alone anywhere near the finish of this marathon event, so there is nothing to be too pleased about yet. The focus is still to get to Cape Horn and this should be on the 5/6 March. Currently the wind forecasts look good with moderate (25-30 knot) downwind conditions for most of the route. Whenever the wind forecast is that good it gives me grounds for worries – the forecasts always change over time and if they are perfect now, there’s only one way for them to go, and that’s downhill!

On deck at present it’s night time, no moon, with a 5-degree air and water temperature, 100 per cent humidity and poor visibility. The wind is 25 knots and we have one reef and the medium gennaker. It’s actually a very pleasant night, honestly! We must be getting used to it down here.

The wind is stable which is a bonus and the swells are favourable. On the other starboard gybe heading 130 degrees we have had a very tough time with the leftover southerly swells. We have to change down from the gennaker to the yankee to handle the rough seastate and we go about 4 knots slower. On this current port gybe the boat is faster and much less stressed.

It’s a big part of the tactics here, managing the seastate as well as the wind shifts. It would be very easy to break the boat in this area, as there are so many differing swells from all the various low pressures that are here, or that have recently passed through. Racing a maxicat here means throwing the polars (the predicted speeds at different wind speeds and angles) out of the window and just sailing the boat to our estimation of the limits of the structure, the rig and the sails. It’s really a judgement call at the end of the day and experience is the only guide. At these speeds you cannot jump over many waves before doing some serious damage. My job is to set the pace that we are going, and it is often a case of reining in the team that want to go really fast, and want to sail as if it was flat water conditions. On other occasions if it all looks good, the seastate is moderating, then its all clear from me to pile on more speed. There is a saying that a famous US multihull racer Walter Greene told me – “take the easy miles”, so that’s what we are doing when we can, but not now, not yet.

It’s always changeable out here so its a fascinating balance to keep the boat moving fast enough to win, and yet slow enough to guarantee making it to the finish. Our team is really focused on sailing the boat precisely, not making any mistakes, and keeping on top of the maintenance. We need to carry on focused for another 30 to 35 days and then we will be enjoying the warm weather and hospitality of Doha with a boat lying happily on the dock and the crew happily in the hotel.

Meanwhile we are counting down the miles to the Horn, 20 plus to the hour. Brian –