White Ocean Racing

Reports 1, 2 January

1 January - Race Status.

Yet another incident. Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) was forced to retire from the race. The day before, he had hit a growler and this time it was to be definitive. On the 53rd day of the race, only half of the fleet that had started out – 15 boats – were still racing. Steve is 11th.

1 January - Newswire comment - Extract from Vendee editorial.

Quote: White's dogged determination to fulfil his dream to do this race of more than 10 years, his ability to not just make a silk purse of a race from a sow's ear of a shambolic, last minute start has been amazing, but he does so with such a down to earth ego-free frank, and often whimsical approach that he is the 'everyman' racer. Unquote

2 January - Progress once again.

Audio Clip courtesy Trigone/VendeeGlobe

2 January - Newswire report - Westerly countdown and job progress.

Meantime Steve White is back on top of his jobs list today on Toe in the Water. His autopilots are doing a good job again as he was working upwind in 25-28 knots of breeze today, looking for a window in the weather to complete the repairs to his goose-neck.

11th, Steve White, GBR, Toe in the Water "I spoke to someone from B&G (suppliers) on New Year's Day. We have to wait until it is really, really calm and do a proper calibration. Basically what we did trying to do it in a big swell was upset the whole thing, so when it's calm I'll give it a go and then it should be fine. But it was great to hear it from the 'horse's mouth' as it were, what the problem is. At least we are going in a straight line, reliably. I have the generator lashed down again and have done most of the gooseneck repair and so I am just waiting for it not to be pouring water across the deck, all of the day. At the moment we are bouncing upwind in 25-28 knots of wind."

"I have been close to Campbell Island, passing within about five miles of it, a pretty spectacular, part of the lip of a volcano sticking up, 500 metres above the sea, literally coming straight out the sea. There were millions of albatross - well not 'millions, but I counted 30."

" It is good to be in the western hemisphere and for the numbers to be counting down from 180, it makes you feel like you heading home properly. It is a long, long way we have come, there is a long, long way to go. It is another little milestone to tick off, like the Equator and of course the next one is the Horn, and so I am just happy to be ticking them off my little milestones."

On solitude and the appeal of two handed racing?
"I don't get lonely like that, I never have, but the just sometimes you see stuff which is difficult or impossible to describe over the phone, or in the written word and so sometimes it is not so much that you miss people, just sometimes not having someone there to share the special moments, which happen with a reasonably regularity. And just having someone to describe stuff and discuss stuff with, who better to do that with than your wife?"

2 January - Blog 16 - Campbell Island Albatross

Happy New Year! I am reporting from a nearly completely mended boat! The generator is well and truly lashed down now, all the laminating up of the components and the new internal strongpoints to take the load off the wishbone are completed, all we need is a bit of weather where there is not gallons of water hosing down the deck every few seconds so I can make the holes in the deck and fit it all.
I also spoke to a very helpful chap called Miles from B&G on New Years Day, believe it or not - how's that for service! I am back down to one pilot at the moment after more troubles, but he is convinced that I tried to commission the pilot in a really big swell and keep the boat moving as it steers itself frantically from lock to lock for two minutes, which is quite a workout I can tell you! The commissioning is actually supposed to be performed in flat water tied to the dock, not conditions that is easy to replicate in the Southern Ocean! When it goes light again shortly I'm sure I can make a better job of it, and hopefuly that will be the end of my problems.

At the moment we are in a lovely stable ridge if high pressure which has given us first North Easterlies - I got the gennaker out, I'd almost forgotten I had it because it had been shut away in the front of the boat for so long! - then eventually strong North Easterlies which I have had for the past nearly twenty four hours, which has meant we have been going upwind in some fairly lumpy conditions and over thirty knots, which is plenty enough to slam upwind with in a flat bottomed boat! Over the past couple of hours it has come back and we are reaching again and making good speed towards the Eastern end of the Ice Gate.

I filmed us crossing back into the West, another significant milestone on the voyage, and the good old Maxsea routing software is telling me two weeks to Cape Horn at this speed! In reality we will be a bit longer than that, we are doing fifteen knots at the moment. I took quite a bit of film (for me!) and have been trying to send it back, but the boat has spent the past few days quite well heeled towards the Antarctic and away from the satellites which are up near the equator, so it can't see them for long enough to transmit anything, which is a pain, or I assume that is the problem.

I had another day which was one of those that will stay with me forever - I can still see it clearly now if I close my eyes. I sailed very close by Campbell Island, which is three hundred and fifty miles from New Zealand. I would think that the island and it's outlying rocks form the last part of the cone of a volcanoe; the rocks around rise up vertically like tombstones from the sea, I was five miles away but I would say they were a great deal bigger than the Needles, and much more slab sided. Above about one hundred metres everything was completely blanketed by a thick layer of cloud, but it was spectacular and moody non the less, and the first land I had seen since Madeira. But the best part was the albatross. As I bashed upwind past the island in short, shallow seas, there were dozens and dozens of them, in fact, just by looking behind (it was too wet to look forward!) I counted nearly forty, and if you consider the number in front and those lost behind waves, there were probably a hundred within my five mile range of visibility, and some of each one of all the species I have seen so far. Do you know, apparently for a long time sailors thought that they had no legs or feet and never landed, and sure enough their feet are difficult to spot, but occasionally they must get stiff or someting and so they dangle them down and shake them so they look like they are made of jelly, then they put them away again! It is really quite funny. I have also seen one take off from the water - it requires timing and the help of a few handy waves. It is not the most fitting of manoevers for such a graceful bird, but he quickly recoverd and tucked his rubber feet away, climbed, banked and turned back over the boat at speed as if to say "See, I can fly in a proper fashion!" Maybe that's where they go at night?

Have a look at the Island on Wikipedia or something, it has an interesting history, having been a sealing and whaling station, and now a nature reserve with no humans on it, and home to the world's rarest duck, the Campbell Island Teal. If I was cruising, which I have never really done, I would have stopped there, it has a very sheltered looking inlet on it's eastern side; another time maybe.........

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