White Ocean Racing

Reports 6 January

6 January - Race Status.

No answer from Jean Le Cam. 200 miles from the Horn, VM Matériaux lost her keel bulb and capsized. An oil tanker was diverted and marked the position. Armel le Cléac’h (Brit Air) and Vincent Riou (PRB) headed to the zone. Vincent Riou managed to recover Jean twenty hours later … but an outrigger broke during the manoeuvre… and PRB was dismasted as the two skippers headed for Chile. Another couple of favourites out of the running. The episode gave rise to an unprecedented decision from the International Jury: Vincent Riou was to be ranked third - redress granted, without that having any impact on the rankings for the other participants. This Vendée Globe will therefore have two boats ranked third. There were only twelve boats left in the race and Steve is now ninth.

6 January - Blog 17 - Shrimp, Albatross and Moittessier.

I have had a perfect few days sailing, reaching in stable steady winds from the Northwest, during which time I have hardly had to go on deck. They have been easy miles that should have come to an end today and been replaced with light winds for a few days as we go around this high up by the Ice Gate, but this is not the case at present. All was going as predicted - I put up a gennaker as the breeze dropped and went aft, then gybed, then shook out a reef, and then it built and came forward again, so now I am reaching on the other tack! It is shifting around nearly thirty degrees as we speak, which was making it hard for the pilot to steer as it has not been flat enough to set it up yet, and it is giving me a much wobblier course than the nice straight one that I imagine you can see at home! Still, we are heading in the right direction and have only three thousand six hundred and seven miles to Cape Horn.

It is strange to be torn between wanting to go fast and catch up the others in front, and really needing to slow down to get the pilot calibrated in order to be able to go fast! Everything will happen in it's own good time, and I just couldn't bring myself to sail deliberately into a high to do a few hours work, and then spend days getting out of it again! It is really nice up here at these higher latitudes - quite warm and often sunny. The shrimps seem to think so to, there are countless millions of them, and every wave brings dozens onto the deck, and usually they leave again on the next one, but if not they can survive for ages under a bit of damp string, and they are big enough to pick up and throw back if you find them stranded! They have very large eyes, which makes me wonder whether they go into very deep water where there is no light, or whether they are just active at night too. I bet they make up a good part of the bioluminescence of our wake. Curiously, there are few birds, although today for the first time I have an albatross again, one who is easy to spot because he has a birthmark! On his back on the right where his wing joins there is a patch of black feathers the size of your fist on an otherwise white back for some strange reason - there are so many questions that I can't answer.....

Brian told me to keep an eye out for the Southern Lights last night but it clouded over which was a shame so I didn't see them, but there will be other nights though I'm sure. All the bad weather seems to be lurking around below our latitude at the moment, which is a welcome respite from the beatings we had in the Indian Ocean. I had a good look at the islands in the South Pacific earlier today, and I must admit I can see exactly why Bernard Moittessier decided to go around again and then stop there, they do look ideal and it would be a perfectly natural thing to do. Still, this is not the time and neither is this the ideal boat to go messing about near reefs - I will have to wait until my racing days are over and the kids have left home, not that I want either of those things to happen in a hurry! Whenever I think of Bernard Moittessier, I always think of my favourite picture caption in any book I have ever read - in the "Voyage for Madmen" about the Golden Globe, underneath a picture of his boat it reads "Joshua. Made of boilerplate. Like her skipper." which I think is fantastic and sums the man up for me. In some ways all of those adventures happened in a simpler time I'd have loved to have been around in, but I must admit an IMOCA 60 is more fun and arguably more fit for purpose than a thirty foot plywood trimaran! You can't deny they were a tough lot, all of them.

It is amazing to see how fast we are crossing the lines of longitude. I was just getting used to Australian time which is easy - 0600GMT is 1800 local (or that was what I was doing!) and already it has changed and now it is dark by 0600 GMT. I just have breakfast now if I wake up and it's light outside, I have no watch and Kim has my phone, so I can't keep local time on anything, and it's too complicated to work out every time, so I just don't worry any more as long as I get at least three meals packed into a day! If you change the time on the computer to local time all of your weather forecasts are in GMT, so you can soon get in a muddle, particularly if you are me!

I am going to have an hours doze now and see whether this wind has stabilised a bit, and then make a cunning plan on what to do next over supper!

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