Our moment of glory as leaders of the Global Ocean Race was short-lived,
as predicted the reaching conditions favoured the newer more powerful
Cessna who simply pulled away averaging 1-2 knots faster despite our every
effort to bear away and sail as fast as possible. Now finally the wind has
turned round and we are sailing downwind but unfortunately we are paying
the price of our torn masthead spinnaker so again we are losing ground,
we’ll need a bit of luck after the horn for a chance to catch up again.
Today however my thoughts are far more preoccupied with something else,
there’s a storm brewing due to be sweep across Cape Horn exactly at the
same time as we expect to go round. The centre of a deep depression
would be centred in the middle of Drake Passage with very strong
south-south-easterly winds blowing at the horn. The weather files show
sustained winds of around 40 knots due in 48 hours but the reality is that
we should expect far more than this, after the cold front the unstable air
mass could mean winds gusting 60-70 knots or more. We would need to stay
off the continental shelf to avoid the worst of the steep waves that form
where the sea bed rises sharply, much the same way as in the Bay of
Biscay, unsurprisingly another nasty place in bad weather. Given the wind
direction it would be easy to be pushed over the shelf and find ourselves
struggling to keep away from land and unable to ride the storm with no
space to run downwind.
Even now with a forecast 15 knots we already have 20 gusting up to 26 and
typically grib weather files underestimate extreme weather so it is a bit
of a lottery to know exactly what we would be in for.
Serious weather would be certainly frightening, possibly not life
threatening but undoubtedly the risk of damage would be high. An option
would be to slow down or even stop for a while to ensure the low pressure
system displaces to the east of us so that once we resume our course we
will know the weather is on it’s way to improve rather than taking the
risk of being cornered and trapped with no easy way out.
We have to make a decision within the next 12 hours otherwise we will have
gone to far to avoid the worst that is forecast to come. Deciding to stop
would cost us around 24 hours, certainly not an easy decision to take but
having come so far we really need to ensure we can finish this race. We
will review our options tomorrow after the new weather data is available.
My boat was raced as Mowgli in the previous edition of the Global Ocean
Race and I think they were caught in very strong winds and seas in the
second leg of the race, the waves breaking over the back of the boat
whilst. – Marco Nannini, GOR.