Marco Nannini on the GOR: 70 knot forecast at the Horn...

Marco Nannini on the GOR: 70 knot forecast at the Horn...

Tuesday February 21 2012 Author: Marco Nannini Location: none selected

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-esterly 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 forcast 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.

 

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