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Race Report

Ericsson 4 Leg Five Day 31

Yesterday will be remembered by all as a day when we got a good pasting from the Southern Ocean. In line with the forecast and from observations of the low we have been tracking, we met some of its mighty force today. It’s all very well looking at the numbers and predictions and even the graphics on your laptop of the bright red wind barbs and orange shading move towards you, but reality is a lot harder and more uncomfortable.

The guys who are regularly on deck are showing signs of wear and tear from the constant salt spray and cold. People are tired as we have been at sea for four weeks now and the freeze dried diet and Chinese snacks don't really cut it in the energy stakes, especially as rations have been thinned as this leg will probably run its full 40 day course. This is when the crews dig deep to keep it all together in boat and people-breaking conditions.
Ryan Godfrey came below dripping wet in his survival suit goggles and harness and was halfway through telling me how short the sea was and how bad the nosedives were when the boat stood on end. I slid along my nav station seat and he disappeared mid-sentence and flew five metres and hit the mast bulkhead. The flying Adelaide atom was launched in his yellow jumpsuit like a human cannonball, luckily he was not hurt, but the effect is like being stood on a train when the emergency brakes get slammed on. It’s not the flight that, hurts but the deceleration when you meet something solid, like the mast, that hurts.
You plan well for the right sails up at the right time and reduce early but the three hour sked shows how hard the competitors are pushing so you have to as well which brings things close to the edge.
We only just managed to get reefs in at first light yesterday as the wind built to a sustained 42 knots, some of the gusts were over 55, but there was some shelter in the short swells which the low brought to us. These conditions test not only the boat and crew, but the whole campaign, every small detail, which minimises effort and time, is a potential boat saver. Good shore crew preparation is essential. Fortunately, we have this in our team and we came through the worst so far as the wind is now moderating and the sea state becoming more regular.
We did have some steering cable issues accompanied by the sound of cracking carbon and crushing nomex, but as ever Blood (Phil Jameson), Dave (Dave Endean) and Brad (Brad Jackson) rigged something pretty quickly to prevent loss of control of the vessel. A wipe out at 30+ knots doesn’t bear thinking about (although I do all the time).
The fleet has been stretched, but we are still hopeful of some more good points at the gate and opportunities on the long climb up to Rio. It looks like we will pass the cold grey Cape Horn in daylight and relatively close which will please those who like having their pictures taken and no doubt the marketers.
Jules Salter – Navigator