Robin Knox-Johnston full-on in the Southern Ocean aboard Yacht Saga Insurance 19/12/06
Log dateTuesday 19 December 2006
PositionLatitude 45 28 South Longitude 087 28 East
Miles To Fremantle1,544 nm
Distance In 24 Hours251.5 nm
Average Speed10.48 knots
Managed to get the top three battens fixed again by dusk last night so managed to get the main fully reefed set for the night. We’ll see how they work this time. They have been splinted as I have removed one batten to give myself some material. I’ll do the next one down when the weather eases which will allow me to set to the second reef.
Sailing Saga Insurance like a square-rigger really with just a jib set up front. Mind in squalls that still got us up to 23 knots in bursts but the squalls were infrequent. Fortunately the wind was been behind us all day, as with a square-rigger so we managed to make some progress although not as much as I would have liked.
This morning was different though. With the gale up with us we have averaged 12.6 knots for the past four hours. It was the proverbial Nantucket Sleigh Ride, the bow wave rising up on each side and the whole boat vibrating as she surged forward, leaving a long white disturbed wake behind. This sort of sailing is why we come down here to the Southern Ocean, but, like any adrenalin-draining experience, you can only do it for so long. When she nosed into the seas and the deck was completely awash so I decided the time had come to reduce the pressure and took in the jib and set the Solent.
The surges are now down to 20 knots instead of 23.5 and the boat feels under a great deal less pressure. Perhaps I should have pressed her for longer, but recent memories of keels and masts breaking made me feel that I would prefer to ease a bit now and be sure of being able to race tomorrow.
Interesting weather pattern developing and I am going to have to take a detour to avoid the calm patch of a high-pressure system between Fremantle and me. Looking at Unai’s progress the last two reporting sessions, he has been almost completely becalmed in the high pressure which extends north of the southern ocean and I want to avoid that happening to us if at all possible. This detour adds distance and time of course but a lot more time would be lost if I went into a calm patch without a decent mainsail. But the weather could change, its just like throwing dice, each time you throw it comes up with something different.
We all have this special weather programme, Maxsea, which we can download daily and predicts the weather for the next five days. Because it is interfaced with the Global Positioning system, that gives me an accurate fix from satellites every three seconds, the Maxsea programme knows where I am in relation to the weather. But here’s the clever bit. If you then give it a waypoint objective and tell it to plan the route to that point, it will calculate the fastest and most efficient route there from your position, using the Polar diagram of your boat, which is its performance criteria. Right now Maxsea says go south more and then swing up towards Australia rather late on to avoid this high pressure. The problem with that is that Maxsea has not been reading the Australian weather people’s gale warnings, which start just north of where I am and extend south. So I am going to do a composite course, hold on north of the gale zone but aim to head north for Fremantle as Maxsea suggests when my composite route meets its recommendations.
Can’t work on the remaining battens today, far too wet on deck, and its pretty jerky down below, very much a question of having one hand holding on to something firm at all times. Transferred fuel to the day tank, which holds 10 gallons and still have some spare and re sliced the main traveller rope, which had become shredded by its jammer and jammed. That might sound good, but you don’t always want it jammed! When it is safe to do so, I’ll get the forward hatch open and see how much baling is required, but that might be a while as its still pretty rough, waves 8 – 10 metres high and wind, well, from the Beaufort scale Force 8, I don’t have a means of measuring it accurately.