As the Volvo fleet head further across the Southern Ocean, we take a look at the latest blogs straight off the yachts. It doesn't sound pretty...
Volvo Ocean Race- Leg 5- New Zealand to Brazil
It’s that famous stretch of the Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 5, where the sailors head straight into the Southern Ocean. It is wet, noisy and as these pictures sent straight from the yachts show, a pretty wild ride…
The SCA boat is rocking. We got salt water splashing all over the deck and quite a lot inside the boat as well. Condensed water is dripping from the ceiling and we can already feel the temperature sinking. The sailing conditions are spectacular. The waves are big. We have 12 hours of fast reaching behind us. Some of the girls found there sealegs quickly, others are still struggling. The gentle start feels very far away.
To really get a good idea how it’s to sail the boat there I asked Abby to describe. She just finished a late lunch and prepared for next watch.
“It is bumpy. It’s wet and it’s wild. It’s like being on a rodeo horse or on a rollercoaster, it’s just intense. It requires 100% concentration, not only helming the boat but when you move around. The movement is so violent. There are no wave pattern at the moment, they are quite short and close together making the ride uncomfortable. You just have to be careful, it’s not only looking after yourself, anybody who is out there. We are sailing at a really fast angle in the right direction, heading south, heading east.”
Same day as yesterday but much wetter. Looking forward to tomorrow.
We passed the international dateline. What does that mean? Well, the degrees of longitude decrease when we sail east… which means we are getting closer to the finish, whereas up to now it feels like we are just getting further away from the start. And above all, it means we changed day. In fact we have had a second 18th of March, but much wetter second time around!
And wet it has been. Wet, noisy, violent and luckily fast. Though not as fast as others, which has been spoiling the fun. And if we add to these challenges a bit of seasickness, and some difficulties to eat normally, to be honest we really could have done without this second 18th of March.
The sun has set and the wind has moderated a bit. We’re going to hoist a bit more sail. The temperature has already dropped a bit, but remains comfortable. The longitude has decreased but the latitude increased. We’re heading towards the Roaring Forties.
Even in her subdued state X-Cyclone Pam is packing one heck of a punch. I’d be lying if I said our enthusiasm for getting out here is unchanged. Now that we’re actually here everyone’s either green or exhausted, and often both. The sea state is really confused and it makes doing anything abnormally difficult. We talk a lot about racing these boats, the demands and the skills it requires, but when the conditions are like they are now simply living takes considerable effort, too.
I fear cooking on days like today like nothing else, alone and isolated while crouched in the middle of the boat with nothing to hold onto, just a single foothold, a kettle of boiling water in my hand that one second wants to shoot up through the ceiling and the next down through the hull. Today could have been the worst day behind the burners I’ve had to date and it left me stunned on more than a few occasions. It’s as little fun as anyone could have making a mess in the kitchen, I promise!
We’re following the path of Pam and as it fades so too will the winds, but the sea state will worsen as it destabilizes. That spells headache because we’re trying to outpace the light air and high-pressure forming in its wake. They’re our limiting factor, the waves, and regardless of how much or how little wind we have, we’re always fighting the sea state. Will feels the faster we get east the better our chances of avoiding the High are, so we’re pushing hard–very hard. Some of the other boats have gone south, upwind with smaller jibs probably looking to get underneath it all, but Will is confident with our course so long as we can keep going fast so we’re hammer down with the bigger Fractional-Zero.
It’s uncomfortable but this is an important point of this leg. As Pam presents a bit of a roadblock the first to get around it and into the more consistent Southern Ocean conditions could get a sizeable boost.
The sounds from up on deck last night were amazing.
As the waves grew, the carbon fiber began to flex and you could hear the water deluge onto the deck rhythmically as the boat lurched through the growing swells. Squalls of rain showers – churned up in the wake of Cyclone Pam – gently filled in the silence between waves. Yet overshadowing the noise of the water were the voices of everyone up on deck shouting through sail change after sail change.
Peeking out of the hatch, between the clouds in the night sky was the Milky Way and to our left stood the headlands of East Cape. Four sets of lights were on the horizon less than a mile ahead of us. We were now sticking our nose out past the protection of the terrain of New Zealand into the huge waves and winds from Pam.
The wind quickly grew into the 20-30 knot range and as we were downsizing our sail area to compensate a massive snap echoed throughout the hull. The bulkheads shook with the force of several tons of energy being released all at once. Several people shouted the forestay had blown as the headsail went slack. However, fortunately it was our running backstay that had slipped out of its winch – an easy fix and we were back into it again.
Everyone has been silent below deck so far – talking is a luxury, right now we just want to try and keep down a meal. The sounds above and the roller coaster ride downstairs are enough to drive your imagination.
For the latest analysis on what’s happening across the Volvo Ocean Race from our Racing Editor Matt take a look at his blog.