Banque Populaire V

Banque Populaire V

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Day 36

Sailing upwind on starboard tack in 18 knots of wind, full main and staysail up, it's bright sunshine, and that sun is pretty much directly overhead now.

We passed into the Tropics today, and there about 1200 miles to the equator, and 4500 total to the finish off Ushant Island. Next milestone is the Equator and we will be trying to break Loick's brother Bruno's record from Equator to Equator..

It's precision sailing now, with much fine trimming of the sails to get the last little bit of speed through the subtly and ever changing winds and waves.the helmsman is key, he is best placed to see the new wind arriving and can tell how the boat is balanced by the speed, heel angle, and rudder angle,

Very different to the Southern Ocean sailing, where the sails were very well eased, so there was less trimming and most of the control was then through the helmsman, who was not necessarily trying to always go as fast as possible, but to pick the right speed and angle to negotiate each wave safely..


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Day 35 - Rio

We are getting up the South Atlantic even faster than we hoped. We are past the first High Pressure to the West, and we went through a stationary front off Rio last night, and are now sailing around the final giant weather system until the doldrums - the St Helena high, placed to our East. This feeds the tradewinds that blow past both the Africa and Brasilean coasts..Currently we are receiving NE winds from the High, so we are sailing upwind on starboard tack, hoping to squeeze past the bulge of Brasil..

It's great sailing; a bright blue sea and sky, puffy white cumulus clouds, steady winds and crystal clear visibility - at least 50 miles, as we can clearly see the top of big clouds, whose bases are far over the horizon..

The wind speed is 17 knots and we have just changed from the Solent to the staysail, whilst keeping a full mainsail..we have also put a short tack in to port, to get further into the favorable wind bend around the High Pressure.

And recently, we have had encounters with humans, cetaceans and possibly aliens....

Firstly we saw a ship, our first visual indicator of other humans for 4 weeks, as we have not even seen the contrail of an aeroplane in that time..the ship was heading across our path, from South America towards South Africa..

Secondly, we saw a whale, possibly a Finback, but I need a book to check. It was heading on the opposite course to us, at about 5 knots speed. Fred, at the helm, saw it first, seeing it's puffs of breath shooting 2m into the was swimming alone and its c30 ton bulk passed about 40m down our port side. It was fantastic to see such an amazing animal, but I do hope the whale realized that we were there too..whales and fast multihulls need to keep a healthy respect for each other, as we do both of us a serious injury if we collided.

And thirdly, there was the most bizarre light in the sky the night before last, Christmas Day night, it was like one of those searchlights outside a nightclub, shining up into the sky from the went from the horizon vertically up to about 25/30 degrees, so not as high as those searchlights, but that same kind of narrow, white beam..
It was really odd, and it stayed there all night, so everyone saw it, and had a different opinion on what it might be. It did not spin round like the stars, it stayed vertical..The only thing that could be agreed upon, is that nobody, in all their miles at sea, had seen anything like it before..
Yvon, in his usual humorous way, suggested it was an alien landing staircase. Fred thought it might be a solar reflection effect off Antarctica, it looked something like a giant comet to me, but not spinning in the sky might put paid to my theory..

Part of the great charm of being at sea, is to view unusual things..


Day 34 Boxing Day

What a difference 2 days make..Christmas Eve we had snow on the deck, enough for a snowball fight across the cockpit. I remember taking my big drysuit gloves off for a few minutes to do a fiddly job on deck, and then having to warm my hands over the open flame of the stove for several more was that cold - with the air temp of 3C, the wind speed and the 100% wetness, the heat loss was really was an archtypical Southern Ocean weather, big wind and waves, downwind blasting..
In contrast, today we are wearing shorts and T Shirts, and drying all our sleeping bags and foul weather gear out on the netting, and showering (bucketing to be more accurate) for the first time in nearly a month.. There is blazing sunshine and we are trickling downwind in 8 knots of wind far offshore of Brasil..
To get from one scenario to the other, we had a really fast Christmas Day, reaching with Solent and one reef on the outer reaches of the depression that took us past Cape Horn..we had big waves from behind that we surfed on, hitting 43 knots at times, in just 21knots of was fantastic sailing, very safe for the boat, as the waves were too spaced apart to nosedive into, and we had relatively small and bulletproof sails up..
Now we are getting round one high pressure to our West before we tackle the main high that is off to our NE. We have just gybed onto starboard around this first high.
The swells from that Southern Ocean low are behind us again after that gybe, so it's pretty smooth, and Florent is going up the mast for another rig check. Fingers crossed its all ok. We have done about 15,000 miles since his last check, in about this place..

I was looking at the wall chart that I have been marking our daily position on, and it looks like we have crossed our track from Day 8 to 9. So we have now completed a circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent, and of the Southern Ocean. In just 25 days! It's all been fast except for those 2 very pedestrian days in the Pacific Ocean.
The boat has just been brilliant, and the crew fantastic - it's been a dream run around the bottom of the planet. We had everything that you could want, big wind, big seas, squalls, icebergs, growlers, records tumbling, fog, cold, albatross, even some snow..the only thing missing, especially for the first timers, was a view of Cape Horn. On my part, I don't mind at all missing the Cape, it was still the perfect ride - on the world's fastest boat, and sailing in the deep south, like in those famous Whitbread/Volvo stories..

As it took us 8.5 days to get here, if we took the same time to get back to Ushant, we would be done in 43 days- if only it were so simple! It's going to take us much longer to return, with at least 2 days light airs around these high pressures, then it's upwind in the NE Tradewinds with a big loop to make around the Azores, so there are lots more miles than on the way down, and slower miles, so there is still all to play for, and we need to keep the boat in top shape..


Day 33 Christmas Day

Happy Christmas!

Just had a visit from Santa, who was dressed in a red cape and hat, gave out
Presents, and looked the spitting image of Xavier!

We all got two fine chocolates from
A Parisian Chocolatier, and an Opinel knife in custom Banque Pop blue with Trophée Jules Verne inscribed - just what I needed, perfect!

The sailing continues full pace and we did another big days run. Now we are reaching with one reef and Solent,

Really feels different today, sea temp to 15C,Less wind and sails,,albatross gone..

Now time for afternoon siesta!


Day 32 Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas everyone!

Hannah, Let me know if you want me to Skype you..

Day 32

Perhaps our last full day in the Southern Ocean, and we are getting the top of the range model - with all the trimmings..

Up to 43 knots of cold Southerly wind, big waves, water temp 5C, air temp 3C, surfing to 40knots speed, 3 reefs in the main, small gennaker, staysail, grey overcast skies, squalls.

So all the usual optional extras you would expect, but with the added bonus of snow showers - a Christmas Eve Special for early dawn Shoppers, only at Banque Populaire!

"At Banque Populaire we aim to match or exceed all other sailing experiences"

We are now half way between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and in late morning will gybe north and make some more quick miles to 40S. We are slingshotting around a depression to our SE, which is giving us these strong winds. The cold waters are courtesy of the Antarctic Convergence Zone, a line which shoots north where we are, and delineates the super cold Antarctic waters fringing the frozen continent from the rest of the Southern Ocean.after the gybe we will rapidly get into warmer waters..
I'm now wearing a hat, a warm balaclava and a goretex balaclava today on deck, with dry suit gloves..With the wind chill it's nippy!

Happy Xmas everyone from the Southern Ocean on Banque Pop!

Cape Horn

Just passed Cape Horn at dawn local time, though being over 100miles south of it, there was no chance to see tip of South America..

This is my 4th time around, and although it would have been great to see the land, I am just happy to be back in the Atlantic Ocean, with the boat in fine shape, and a good weather forecast for the next few days..

We had a celebration of a delicious and perfectly chilled bottle of Champagne Mumm, some chorizo sausage and our last two loaves of bread. A feast indeed..

We almost certainly now have the record for the widest rounding of the Cape by any racing yacht, to go with our likely furthest south for any racing multihull at 62S!

But of course, the serious, big one today, is that we on Banque Populaire have sailed faster from Europe to Cape Horn, rounding all the three 'Great Capes', than any vessel before..30 days and 22 hours..that is 1 day 6 hours ahead of Groupama3.

Now sailing East still, as we are not going to make the classic turn north at Cape Horn, but continue on this latitude to take advantage of the strong downwind conditions of a low pressure to our East. Once closer to the low, we can gybe and get a long way North in its good winds.

Currently we have 35 knots of wind and we are sailing with 2 reefs, small gennaker and staysail at 30 to 35 knots of speed, temp 6C..back to a normal day at the office in the Southern Ocean!

Normally rounding Cape Horn indicates a dramatic change in the weather - flatter seas, clearer skies, warmer waters, but for us no change for a couple of days. But they should be fast days, where we can put some miles in the bank over Groupama3, and that's what counts..

Going on deck now for four more hours of high speed surfing!


Day 30

The wind is slowly picking up now, up to 18-25 knots, and the mighty Banque Populaire is beginning to get into her stride again. Starting to see flashes of 35knots on the speedo as we sail downwind with one reef in the main, big gennaker and staysail..seas are still small, but we are getting ready for some heavy air downwind action in the near future.

One of the jobs is to change the trim of the boat - to move weight to the stern, so the bows do not plough into the waves that we are overtaking.. That meant making a human chain of 10 people inside the long, thin central hull to move about 600kg of food and equipment from the middle to the is moving the 2 gennakers we are not using to the back beam, behind the helmsman.

As the wind builds up towards Cape Horn we will be swoping gennakers from the big to the small, and putting in a second reef in the main. Then possibly going smaller than that closer to the Horn.

Looks like an arrival at the Horn tomorrow late morning..

Over the last few days we have been traveling over some of the most remote places on the planet. We have been over 1500 miles from any land at times, so no other human being except us 14 were likely to be in that enormous circle with a radius of 1500 miles - as any other vessels would be unlikely here.

Even the seabirds have been few in number here, ..the albatross have stayed away as there has not been enough wind and waves for them to soar on, and for many of the petrels we are too far from land.

However, today the we have had about 8 small petrels flying with us, with black head and tail, white body and the most graphic white and black camouflage style markings on the wings. They looked like little fighter jets, and fly like them too, pulling big G forces as they spin around the boat. Saw 3 of them in close formation, turning as one, like a jet display team, fantastic..

The thing that struck me as they flew with us for the whole 4 hour watch, is when do they eat? I have not seen any bird yet pick anything up out of the water, they seem to be using us purely for entertainment, and even if they are not, and there is a purpose to flying with us, we are being well entertained by them..


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Day 29 cont

This year we have been on a grand migration, like an Arctic Tern, on our maxi trimaran BP. One week after the summer solstice this June we were at 61N at the Shetland Islands, now at the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere we are at a symmetrical 61S...

The Arctic Tern travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year. It flies further than any other bird..

Feeling very lucky to be able to be able to do the same this particular year.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 29

When we were storming across the Indian Ocean 10 days ago, 2000 miles ahead of the record,  we had dreamed of being at Cape Horn today, but the large detour around the ice zone, and then this roadblock of a  ridge have shattered that pleasant dream..

So back in reality, for the last 2 days we have been downwind sailing, trying to find a way through this ridge that is moving East slowly. In the middle of it there is no wind, so we have so nearly gotten through it several times, but the wind dies on us, the ridge moves on, and we are still left on the west side, the door slammed in our face...

Fortunately this ridge of no wind will finally start to migrate north tomorrow, with westerly winds coming in below it. So we have sailed far south, into the 'screaming' 60s latitudes, to be ready to go through when the door finally lets us past.

You have to be an optimist in this record breaking game, so there is always some good news...Todays good news is that there is currently no wind at the Horn or going up the S.Atlantic, so we are not missing out on a fantastic ride north. In fact, we are looking quite fortunate that a low is going to hold off forming, till our delayed arrival,  and then it should help us up to 40S in the Atlantic..

So we have lost loads of miles on Groupama3 lately, though we hope to be still ahead at Cape Horn. One could then imagine that cracks would show in the team, and people would get disheartened, but thats not the case at all. There is a lot of good humour on the boat, a lot of banter, joking and laughter, especially at the changes of watch, and that helps everyone to get over that pleasant dream of 29 days to the Horn..Loick is the prime joker, the most positive person you could hope to meet, and of course, that feeds Into the rest of the team.

So more sailing with our maximum sail area today - big gennaker, full main and staysail..the windspeed should be in the teens, and although the seastate has been quite bad on starboard gybe, heading straight into a Southerly swell, that swell seems to be getting smaller now, and we should be mainly on port gybe..

It's midnight here now local time, with quite low cloud, though clear visibility. Just wanted to test the light intensity, and you can read the headlines on a magazine easily, but just not quite the small print.
So no problem with looking ahead for ice from the helm with the naked eye, but according to the information we have, the ice is now just behind us..


Day 28

We are now sailing VMG downwind in 13 knots of wind with the big gennaker, full main and staysail. It's ironic that we have carried this big gennaker on the deck, right through the Atlantic Tradewinds, and the first time the wind is correct to hoist it, is at 58S, in the Southern Ocean, below the latitude of Cape Horn!

Unfortunately, we are traveling just behind a high pressure ridge, that is traveling eastwards at 15 knots. We have caught this ridge up during all the strong northerly winds we had before, but at present are having difficulty overtaking it and getting to the stronger Southerly winds on the other side..

Its pleasant sailing conditions.... for Greenland, with the sea and air temperature around 5C. True night never came, which is great, and the visibility is excellent, so we are not worried about hitting growlers tonight. The last 2 nights when we have been slightly north (darker nights) we have slowed down and continuously scanned ahead with radar, light intensifying camera and the Raymarine infrared camera.

We passed pretty close to one growler, so they are certainly out here..


Monday, 19 December 2011

Day 26

We are still sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean - has nobody mentioned, that the brochure clearly stated that this part of the world cruise, was supposed to be a downwind sleighride!
There is 25 to 30 knots of wind now, and a 'bumpy' seastate.  The boat is crashing over the waves at 22 knots. We have just changed from one reef and staysail, to two reefs and staysail, as the vespertine light faded for our short night.
Late this afternoon we passed about 4 miles to leeward of one iceberg, and saw ten growlers, between 5 and 1m high. The iceberg we saw from 12 miles out on the radar, (before we saw it visually), but the growlers did not show up at all well on radar.
Fortunately the water temp is 8 or 9C, so the growlers should not get too far from the mother berg before melting.
It's night now, so a careful lookout for us. Time to go on deck:.


Day 25

Since the encounter with the amazing ice display of The remnants of berg B15J we have been skirting the Northern edge of the known ice zone. Firstly in almost no wind, and now tacking upwind in 15 knots of wind.
Our watch was on deck through the entire night - at least the 4 hours of it that we have here, and we were paying close attention to the radar. We were looking at various echos on the radar, rain clouds, fog banks, waves, and distinguishing them from possible icebergs, when an echo on the screen suddenly appeared that was unmistakably Unmistakeably an iceberg, about the size of a large ship.,we tacked away towards the north, about 4 miles before it, but it was not quite light enough yet to see it visually..

If you are going to sail in the iceberg zone, this is the way to do it! In flat water, and sailing upwind, so the speed is not too high, and you can easily change direction and even stop and drift back in the direction you came in..Sailing downwind in strong breeze it would take several miles to get the gennaker furled. Though right now sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean feels a bit more like the BT Challenge than the trophee Jules Verne!

Am trying not to think at all about the miles we are losing to Groupama3, but that's why it's good to have had some miles in the bank, to be able to spend some of that lead to make the correct decisions to get to the finish first..

Day 25 and we have sailed further in that time than any other sailing boat. As a comparison, when I did the mini Transat in 2001, it took those 25 days to get to Salvador in Brasil. In the Vendee 2008, I had gotten to South of Cape Town, and in 2003 on Cheyenne's Round the world record we had just arrived south of Cape Leewin!

Ciao, am off to my bunk, cannot stay awake any longer!

Day 24

A good days run today, looks like nearly 700 miles.
Today started off with the usual grey mist, 30 knots of wind with 2 reefs and staysail, and during our watch, it turned into a glorious sunny day, with flat seas with a 3m swell from behind, the wind dropped to 25 knots and we could open the throttles again on the boat, putting up more sail and sailing a safe and consistent speed in the low to mid the end of our watch we were sailing with full main and solent. It was great to steer the boat for speed and not in defensive mode,

In the afternoon we arrived at the corner of the iceberg area, where the remnants of B15J are scattered. B15J
Is the name of a massive berg that broke off the ice shelf about 3 years ago;. It was the size of Corsica, but it's now the size of Belle Isle, with lots of pieces ice around..

It was the most inrcredible sight, with huge table bergs and a numerous smaller bergs that had been eroded into little mountains. Plus lots of growlers..

I had seen bergs before nothing like this..we stayed on the north side of them, took photos and videos. Checked the radar settings and saw the bergs in our Raymarine infrared camera.

As night fell we are paralleling the zone of bergs, and have light winds.

After our great day yesterday of high speed and icy scenic attractions, we are now almost becalmed in the Southern Ocean at 52S.

Wind 2knots!

It is all expected, and we are going to have to be patient before the new NW wind arrives. We might well be going upwind again for a short while.
It is all a necessary part of avoiding that area of heavy ice, that was seen by satellite, and proved in our visual inspection yesterday..

Although we will be losing a lot of miles to Groupama 3 today, we can, in addition to all the sail manouvers required in light airs, use this weather to make checks on the boat.

We are going to check all 420 feet of the 3 hulls for any damage


Friday, 16 December 2011

Day 23

We have had over 40 knots of wind for about 15 hours, and it is now moderating to 35 knots. For a while we even furled up the storm job, and spent 3 hours just with the triple reefed mainsail, The problem that we were beam onto the seas and wind and it was hard to depower the boat so as keep the speed under control and yet have enough power Andre heel angle to stop the windward of the 3 hulls from slamming down into the seas.
Loick had a great 'old school technique to help this problem - OCR

Still reaching in strong breezes, now it's 32 knots of NW wind and we are sailing at 120TWA with 2 reefs and staysail.
Most of the day we had 40 knots plus, and for 3 hours was sailing with just the triple reefed main. Later we went back to the storm jib, and used Loick's 'old school' technique of over sheeting the mainsail to stop the windward hull slamming down onto the waves too violently. It was a very rough period and Banque Populaire coped with it brilliantly. We tried to make it as easy on the boat as possible,

We are sailing high to go round a big area of icebergs that are to our West. If we did sail straight we would save a lot of time, as by going North we are going to be sailing into an area of light winds.. But no choice, we know that there are a lot of bergs there, too dangerous.

Fortunately after the light winds, it looks good weather to Cape Horn, so we may catch up much of what we lost in sailing round the zone..


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Day 22

Easy miles today reaching in light winds at 57S. Big swell from behind helped keep our speed up, so even on this 'slow' day, we did over 500 miles..
Now we have the expected upwind section and we are upwind with one reef and the staysail in 21kn of wind. Good wind chill outside!
About to tack for 3 to 5 hours on starboard, then back to port tack.
Wind will then shift to the North and will increase to 40 knots for at least 12 hours.
That will be sporty on a trimaran..will be well reefed down..
Everyone fine on board and the boat in good shape.
South of NZ on Day 22!
Time to go on watch...

Beating now into a nasty sea, with 2 reefs and the staysail up. we spent our 4hour watch trying to keep our boatspeed under control.
Just in my bunk now, writing this on to my iPhone, but it's feels like I am in a WRC rally car, it's hard to hold on to the phone, let alone press the correct keys!
Let's see what conditions are like in 3 hours!

Now reaching in 40 knots of wind. 3 reefs and storm jib..speed around 30 knots. Limited visibility of about 100m due to the warm, moist air from the north blowing over the cold water. Its very bumpy down below, hard to sleep..The guys are lying down and getting some rest, but getting thrown around too much for any more than that. Have another 16 hours of this wind, so will look after the boat through the waves, as the main priority, and if we get tired enough we will sleep!

Just ahead is the 180 degree of longitude, the dateline. We are now on the opposite side of the world to where we started, and in reality more than half way around the world in terms of the sailing miles we have to cover..As coming back up the Atlantic we should be able to take a more direct route than on the way down..


Day 21

Great sailing today at 57S in the Southern Ocean, clear skies all day. 30 knots of wind in the first part of the day, which most places would be a reason to cancel racing, or not leave port to venture out. But for us now, after so many days of heavy air downwind, it was a just nice quiet break!

Then it got lighter still in the afternoon to 18 knots, so we increased our sail area to the medium gennaker and full main. It's now 15 knots and set to drop further in next 24 hours, with the breeze heading to give some upwind sailing and tacking to come. Then the following 24 hours will be heavy airs beam reaching followed by more usual downwind sailing. So a very mixed bag of conditions in prospect..

Going upwind at 57S is going to bring some impressive wind chill numbers! Water was at 2C a few hours ago and is now at 5C. We are at the Latitude of Aberdeen in Scotland and Juneau in Alaska.

Few if any sailing boats would ever come here. Round the world races now have mandatory ice gates, and so it's really only a Jules Verne attempt, that has no limits, that would come here. There are no islands to the South, we just passed 100 miles South of Maquarie Island, part of New Zealand, so no reason for a cruising boat to come here - we have the place to ourselves!
And it was spectacular here in our private sea last night - at sunset we had 7 big albatrosses following us, and one would circle the boat, passing meters in front of the bow, and just above the water..
The light was taking so long to fade after sunset, that I finally realized, it was not going to fade at all! At midnight local time the light was now in the South, over Antarctica. And by one am it was slightly in the East, so dawn was here. It was an amazingly clear night..
2 days ago we were at 43S, and we are now at 57S - the days character change so much in that distance. And 400 miles to our South, the sun would not have even set last night!


Day 20

It's been an exciting night on board Banque Populaire..We have been sailing just behind a cold front, on starboard gybe, and the cold polar air was packing some mean squalls. The swell was near the beam and was forecast to be 10m, but was probably 'just' 5/6m. In the first squall, we had a steady 50 knots of cold, dense air for several minutes, which was plenty with 2 reefs and the staysail, in the dark. Jean-Baptiste did a great job of keeping the boat in control..and we spent the rest of the night with a safer combination of 3 reefs and the bigger Solent jib, going through several more squalls.

In the morning we went to 2 reefs and the Solent, and although the squalls became a little weaker, we did go through one of 40 knots that saw our boatspeed top out at a rather too impressive 48knots!

Now the sky is clearer, the sun is shining and there are just occasional, smaller squalls. The swell is much longer and less steep, so we have now gone to the small gennaker and 2 reefs in the main..Wind 28-33k.

A slightly smoother ride, though still doing something as simple as getting a cup of water means bracing yourself against any possible angle of G Force, forward, back, left, right or up. It's impossible to predict what's coming next, when you are inside the boat. Like a climber you only move one limb at a time, the other 3 need to be firmly attached to something solid..

We have now done over 50% of our distance in the southern ocean, from where we entered the 40s to Cape Horn..the first part has been fantastically fast, almost exclusively downwind sailing, it's been a brilliant ride. I suspect the section to
the Horn, will not be as fast or straightforwardly downwind VMG sailing.

Here we go, on watch again, let's go!


Monday, 12 December 2011

Day 19

2 mins under 18 days to Australia! Juan just came on deck to say that we had passed Cape Leewin..

I had daydreamed before the trip about getting to Oz in 20 days, and how incredible that would be, but less than 18, just amazing, I never even considered it possible..

Again passed a major milestone whilst our watch has been on deck, Equator, Cape Agulhas, now Leewin.

Wind is up whilst this low passes below us. Wind 35 to 42 knots. 3 reefs in main now and Solent or staysail. Keeping our speed under control as there are some steep seas that we don't want to be nosediving into at 40 knots, and thereby straining the boat..still surfing to 35 at times..


Hi all

It's now 1615 in the afternoon boat time, and it's going to be dawn in 3 hours - we are certainly on the other side of the world now to Europe...

Pos at 43N. 119.5E
Wind 30k WNW
Speed 27 - 34kn
3 reefs, small gennaker + staysail

Today with winds of 35+ was all about not breaking the boat, and we were sailing daylight hours with the turbo boost turned right down. During the night (the afternoon in Europe), the wind and sea have moderated a little, so we put up the small gennaker, and speeds have increased.

On trimarans, much more so than monohulls you are limited in speed by the seastate. In winds of 35k you could easily sail at up to 45 knots but you would be at a big risk of breaking the boat, as tens of tons of solid water crashed into the beams as you plunged through each wave you overtake - that's a lot of energy to dissipate. There is a crossover point where you start to go slower in increasing winds, due to the increasing seastate..we probably found that crossover today at 30 knots of wind. Another day there might be a different crossover. If we were near to land to windward the crossover might be a lot higher, as the sea would be flatter; or if the wind had just arrived, and the sea had not had time to build, or if there was a current in the same direction as the wind..there are a lot of factors that affect it, but basically we have to very careful with the speed or the boat and the balance of the sails to avoid nosediving the boat too often and too violently.

A couple of sayings we wrote on our galley wall one night as we were tearing along near the Cape of Good Hope, are good to keep in mind when the seastate is up..

An English saying....'To finish first, first you have to finish'

And a French one from Thierry Chabagny...."Qui veut aller loin, ménage sa monture ! "
'If you want to travel far, you have to look after your mount!'


Day 17

Another gentler day for most of today, with lighter winds than expected. But tonight a new low approaching so winds on the way up. 32 knots now.

Should be passing Cape Leewin in the morning - so will soon be south of Australia!

Tomorrow evening the front will be passing from this current low, so we will gybe onto starboard and start edging southwards again.

Out here we have been experiencing 'maxi trimaran jet lag' as the sun time is changing so fast. Yesterday I was woken the usual 20 mins before my standby started, and had no idea whether it was going to be day or night's always completely black in the bunk area, as there's no hatches and the black carbon does not reflect any light from further aft in the boat..I mentioned this feeling to the other 3 watchmates, and they all had had exactly the same slightly disorientating sensation at that time. We have been used to Atlantic time for a long while..

The Squadron of small acrobatic 'fighter jet' grey petrels that flitted so close to us yesterday, have been replaced by the 'heavy bombers' - big, black petrels that elegantly swoop and wheel around the boat, careful to not get too close to the turbulent wind downwind of our sails.

Did the big ones come in overnight and say, 'hey little fellas, we want our ball back, it's time to play somewhere else'? Or were the grey jets called back by Fighter Command?
We will never know, but its great to be surrounded by these amazing, and intelligent creatures. It's a real privilege of this trip to be almost flying with these birds, like them we are using just the currents of air to move across the seas, though unlike them we have only our one giant wing…

I remember that in the Vendee solo race , that if I quickly came on deck, there would often be an albatross right above the cockpit, just 5m away, having a good look. As soon as my head appeared it would drop back to 100m away and follow the boat for hours or often several days, to then come back for a sneaky look when I went below again! On land, you can apparently walk right up to an albatross on it's nest, but they seem much more wary at sea, in their element, strange...


Friday, 9 December 2011

Day 16

A relatively slow day today, with lighter wind speeds than forecast, and we are having to gybe downwind in the 15 knot westerly breeze, so not great progress eastwards. However we are still taking miles out of Groupama3, the current record holder, who are now over 2000 miles back, and the wind should increase again tonight, though remaining westerly..

In the last 5 days we have advanced Eastwards at amazing pace, I look at the wall chart in the cabin, and think of what terrain we would be crossing if we were travelling the same latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. 5 days ago we would have been crossing France, today we are in Eastern Kazakhstan and about to cross into Mongolia tomorrow. That would be a hell of a fast trip by land! If you drew a line straight up from us, it would cross a lot of Indian Ocean before landing in India, travelling up through Nepal, China, Kazakhstan and finally Russia. To our south there is the icy Antarctic continent..

Hi again..

Today the wind remained light most of the day, and it allowed the team to get a lot of little jobs done around the boat, without getting washed off the deck. Pym and I put grease into the mast ball which was about a half hour job, which should be done every week. That entailed disassembling some metal fittings in the sea spray which meant for some cold fingers afterwards..

Now the wind is back over 20 knots and we are back to closer to our usual 30 knots of speed, with one reef, medium gennaker and staysail on port gybe..The swell is from behind so the boat is sliding smoothly, overtaking one long swell after another. It's night time now, but dawn should be appearing around midnight..

It looks like we are going to stay on this port gybe now till Cape Leewin, getting headed down to an Easterly course as our wind shifts from the West to the North West..

There are about 20 small petrels flying with us, that are sometimes passing between the main hull and the windward hull, and flying out underneath the windward hull, just before it touches the water..amazing acrobatic displays..

It was time for a change of inner thermals today, after a very long and hot sailchange, so had a 'shower' with baby wipes and am now wearing shiny new black Mustos and feeling very good. If I am careful about staying dry, this should be good till around Cape Horn and back into the Tropics..

All the best!


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Terre en vue!

'Terre en vue!' shouted Manu as the mist abruptly parted to reveal the jagged mountains of the Kerguelens, laced with veins of snow and ice..

The mountains soar to 1800m, but we could only see the lower 200m, the rest remained resolutely overcast.

But that was enough to feast our eyes on, to take photos and videos. Before the mist parted we even took a photo of the radar screen, just to prove the island was there..It was our first land sighted since passing Santa Cruz de la Palma on Day 2..

We gybed twice to clear the wind shadow to the east of the island, the closest we approached was about 6 miles on the south side,

Fred at the helm saw a penguin dive between our hulls, and there was a lone albatross plus a dozen petrels circling behind us.

Now we are back on our usual port gybe, and are going to arc towards the north as the wind shifts west. This conveniently sets us up to go over a region of icebergs that extend to 48.5N to our East.

So warmer water here we come. Currently it's 4.3C, and really not too bad with dry suit gloves, boots and a surf helmet for driving..

Time to go on watch!


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Day 14 (almost)

Making great miles today, all on port gybe running ahead of a low pressure behind us..wind is 30 to 38 knots so we are changing between the small gennaker and Solent jib, as the wind alters, and keeping 2 reefs in the main..

We are going below the Crozet Islands now, and probably passing just south of the Kerguelens too..

We are down below 50S now so the globe is getting smaller here in a horizontal plane, so every 38.5 miles we sail east we are making a degree of longitude - we would have to do 60 miles on the equator to gain that same degree of longitude..So we are saving time by sailing at these latitudes..though does mean we are keeping a careful eye on the radar. This area has been thoroughly scanned for icebergs by satellite and none have been detected, but better safe than sorry..

Have mentioned our watch system before but thought would explain it better..

We have 14 crew in total.
2 off watch, Loick, who is the conductor of our orchestra, and grabs catnaps, and Juan, navigating, who hardly sleeps at or more usually both of them are up on deck for all maneuvers..they sleep in 2 bunks aft of the nav station, which is below the cockpit..

The remaining 12 are divided into 3 watches of 4, each led by a watch captain. Who are Yvon, Fred and Jean-Baptiste.
I am on watch with Yvon.

We stay on GMT right around the world and do not alter the watch times for the local time. It could not be easier really. For instance, on our watch we are on deck from 8 to 12, off watch and in our bunks 12 to 4, and on standby mode 4 till 8..then on deck again. So twice a day we are on watch, off watch and on standby..

Every 4 hours everyone is up and changing modes. One group is coming off the deck to get undressed for bed. Another group is getting out of bed and getting dressed for standby and the 3rd group are going on deck from their standby. As you can imagine, in a confined space that is constantly moving, there is an elaborate choreography to this, rather like ants moving inside an anthill..somehow it all happens, with no friction. You need a certain amount of purpose to get done what you need to do, and a good awareness, respect and tolerance for what everyone else is trying to get done too. Somehow it all works, and the boat never stops moving, with at least 4 on deck at all times...
For manouvers it's usually 9 or 10 people on deck, or 14 if it's near a watch change..

Day 13

Hi all

Yesterday was a positioning day, to put ourselves in the right spot for the next low that is coming through. We needed to get further south not to miss out on the best conditions. We gybed south twice to take advantage of slight windshifts towards the west. The gybes south on starboard were not pleasant at all on a trimaran with the swell near the beam shaking the boat around. Now back on port gybe, the swells are right behind us, and we are surfing smoothly from one swell to the's not as fast and furious as before the Cape of Good Hope, but still over 30 knots most of the time, and low stress on the boat - she has done amazingly so far..

Hopefully we now stay on this gybe and in this wind as far as the Kerguelens in about 2 days time..

Just changed mealtimes around to account for heading east towards the sunrise. So instead of having breakfast we now made lunch at 0800..


Monday, 5 December 2011

Day 12 Report

Hi everyone..

1800 day 12
Pos 45S 25W
Wind 27kn WNW
One reef, staysail and small gennaker

What a difference 5 hours sailing southwards brings. This morning we were tearing along 550 miles to the south of the tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas (spelling?). It was bright sunshine and 10C water. Now we are on the same heading and 100 miles further south and it's overcast, limited visibility and the water is's the water temp that makes the difference. It's high summer here, December, and on an equivalent latitude to La Rochelle in the north, yet it's feeling distinctly wintry. I am sure La Rochelle is balmier today, even in mid winter! However, we are still tearing along, which is the key point, and why we are here..

Another gybe southwards likely tonight, so it may be soon time to put the boots on for the first time this trip, and get the gloves ready, just in case..

All good on board, we have settled into our watch system well. Our watch is on standby now, Yvon is cooking dinner to be ready for 1915, we have just helped to shake out a reef, and I have been marking up the world map on the wall with our position each day, as well as getting my clothing ready for the colder waters to come.

So far my Musto gear has worked perfectly, I have not got wet even once, am in the same thermals I had at the start, though had lighter gear for the tropics. Have just been a little self indulgent and treated myself to new underpants, just because I could..the key is to put on the right outer layers, so you don't get the inner layers wet. The latex seals on the neck and cuffs of the foul weather top are keeping all the salt water out. I do remember very well having water wicking up the arms in gear years ago - those days thankfully have passed..


Cape of Good Hope

It's quite incredible to have passed the cape of good hope late last night, and we should be passing cape aghulas (spelling?) the southernmost point of Africa in 30 minutes, in just a shade under 12 days from Ushant island.

We have had great weather, Loick, Juan and Marcel, on the shore, have taken us on an excellent route, always in the wind, and on deck we have worked hard at sailing fast and safely.

25% of the current record time done now, maybe more if we are quicker than 48 days...pleased to have this much time on the record, and it looks like some decent weather ahead to the Kerguelens at least.

Likely to put a short gybe in southwards today to catch the next low coming up from behind..

All well on board. 2 reefs and small gennaker, 30 kn wind


Morning All

Congratulations to Sam Davies for announcing her sponsorship for the 2012 Vendee. Great news!

It's been Fast and Furious on the water last night. Over 30 knots speed all the time, intense concentration on the helm. Instruments the only reference to steer by.

On standby watch now 4 till 8am. If no sail changes called, there is time to look at our position, check email, make some porridge and grab a nap..

Friday, 2 December 2011

Day 9

We are really moving fast now, its actually hard to do less than 30 knots of speed.. Wind is 27 kn from 135 TWA.

If all goes well it should be a good mileage for this day. Prob the best of the trip so far, though nothing like the 900 miles this boat has done during its Transatlantic Record, which took a total of 3.5 days. We are in a marathon here, not a sprint, with nearly 40 more days to sail, and besides, the conditions are not as good as they were then..

Most of the multihull 24 hour records lately have been made leaving New York going east to Europe in the dead flat seas off the East Coast, but there have been several monohull 24 hour records broken right here, south of the St Helena High, because the seas can be relatively flat and the N wind strong, ahead of a front..

Just this year Loick Peyron broke the double handed IMOCA 60 record here with JP Dick, a record which before was held by Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape, also made in the same area.

In the Volvos several records have been made here too. ABN and then Ericcson 4, II believe, in the last race..

Suffice to say, it's great sailing and we are making the most of it, though being prudent with the boat.

It's colder now, with water temp to 15 C, and it's back to full foul weather gear on deck to protect against the spray too..

Anyway time for a nap now in my off watch..At 1800 pos 40S 27W
Wind 27kn from NNW
Small gennaker, staysail, 2 reefs..

We have just entered the legendary Roaring Forties and are making good miles to longitude of the Cape Of Good Hope..The blue skies are back after disappearing this morning..fantastic fast sailing..

It's Loick's birthday today, and there is a sign in the galley inviting anyone to our Beach Bar Terrace for a little celebration. Am catering for 14, as guests staying outside the resort will find finding the venue somewhat difficult, and parking a real nightmare..

Saw probably the last flying fishes today. Both Pym and I saw different ones, each of them the biggest we had ever seen, and we have seen a few in our time - they were the 'Dreamliners' of flying fish - the size of small salmon! I wonder how old they would have been? water temp was 15.7C, so that matches to the first flying fish seen off Lisbon in the N. Hemisphere in 16C water In our 8 day traverse of the flight path of flying fish from 39n to 39s, I have concluded that they are born in the warm equatorial regions and can move outwards to colder waters as they grow older and bigger. Will have to some reading about them on return, maybe there is a new aerial Moby Dick novel just waiting to be written..though prob not by me..

Bye for now