Mike Sanderson with the latest news from ABN AMRO One on the approach to the first Ice Gate 23/2/06

Date23 February at 0602

The first of our two beloved ice gates is making life pretty interesting out here. When we were designing the boat, our average speed expected over hundreds and hundreds of runs between Wellington and Cape Horn was an Incredible 20 knot average… yes averaging 480 mile days. Until only a few years ago that would have been a world 24-hour record every day! What the router wasn’t expecting in all those runs though was that an ice gate would be situated so close to an old Tropical Storm and that one day would be spent in under eight knots of breeze like today has been, nearly going 90 degrees to Cape Horn.

Lemon… Our play to hang in the south is hanging in tender hooks at the moment. In hindsight I probably should have cashed in and got up in front of the Pirates and Movistar, but isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? If the weather had done what it was forecast to do it would have been a nice little gain down here, now we need just a hint of it to go into the east and then we will tack over and hopefully still cross those guys.

All in all, we certainly can’t complain what being south of the fleet has done for us. One of the reasons that it is worth hurrying to the gate apart from the result is the fact that there is a chance that it will blow 50 knots there within 12 hours of us getting there… So the race is on, against the competitors and Mother Nature.

Life on board is pretty chilly at the moment, the boat is starting to get a bit wet below with condensation, I now have managed to get Dave Endean to give me instructions on how to turn the heater on though, so I am expecting down below will be a little warmer than the freezing temperatures that it was at 2 am this morning. Maybe we should even consider using all our heater fuel up at once and have a shorts and T shirt day down below, would make for a nice change from all the thermals and woolly hats.

For sure one of our highlights from this programme has been our fleece lined sleeping bags and fleece pillowcases. This all started from my singlehanded qualifier that I was doing last year. I was out there, toughing it out in full Volvo 60 mode, with my wet camping sleeping bag and my wet jacket rolled up under my head pretty much freezing to death. Anyway out there in my wisdom I decided since there was only going to be one of me for my Northern Trans Atlantic race that I would give myself the luxury of some fleece. On Emma’s little sewing machine on my return back to England, I made myself for the trip a fleece pillowcase and a fleece fitted blanket. The difference this made to life in general on board was just night and day. So, of course on suggesting it when we started sailing the ABN AMRO 70s everyone thought I was joking, until Bob did a great job getting custom sleeping bags made and custom fleece pillow cases and now all the boys are totally convinced. So if that is one thing which the ABN AMRO programme can give to the rest of the world’s offshore sailors… don’t take it lightly!

The 97-98 race was famous for re-lighting the Code 0 sail; I think the fleecy pillow could be seen as one of the great break throughs of 2005/6 Volvo Ocean race.”