Licking their wounds

Not even illbruck have come away unscathed

Friday February 8th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Making the drop AS2 style - Lisa MacDonald reports from on board Amer Sports Too

These waves are phenomenal and definitely only ever seen in the depths of the Southern Ocean. It's a big bubbly boiling cauldron amounting to enormous mountains of water that pick you up and take you for a ride or throw you around like a rag doll, chew you up and spit you out. Southern Ocean windy wintry storms are upon us now - and it's meant to be summer here?

The closest comparison I can think of is skiing: there's always freestyle, but save that for the professionals. The recent trends down south are as follows...

1. Straightforward, straight down the mine snow plough skidding wildly downhill at mach speeds with no brakes and no stopping; or

2. The slow traverse from one side of the wave to the other with a bit of a sideways slippage each step, treading gingerly so as not to catch an edge and end up a... over t...; and finally

3. The freight train rumbling heavily down the tracks as she races down one wave and with a hop, skip and a crash lands on the next wave to do the same again.

Oh, I forgot to mention the inevitable - the big roundup and crash on the slopes where you end up looking up at the sky from a heap at the bottom of the hill, your whole world has been turned inside out - nothing is as it was and you have to get up, pick up the pieces and start all over again...

We've been battling the wars down here. The Southern Ocean has reared its ugly head in many ways over the past 24 hours, very distinct weather systems have come upon us with great pace, wreaked havoc and left just as quickly. We've had some trying times getting sails down with building breeze, the odd wipeout in blustery conditions; add to that a few bumps and bruises and a bit of carnage to repair before we meet the South American coast in a few days' time.
We were in full control of the building breeze this morning and changing sails accordingly. We went to drop the heavy air spinnaker as some big clouds approached. Everyone was in place, all the ropes were ready and Katie [Pettibone] was in control on the helm. She made the call 'ok, get rid of it' (phew, I was thinking, how organised were we!)

Suddenly the boat went head to wind faster than you could blink (now I was questioning Katie’s new found tactics for dropping the spinnaker head to wind in lots and lots of breeze...) what we didn't know was that at that very moment the call was given, the steering cable broke and spun us out.

Katie couldn't reach the other wheel until she was unclipped from the weather side. Once on the other wheel she re-gained control of our wildly thrashing beast and brought her down to a safe angle and speed to carry on with the task of dropping the spinnaker. Crikey, another long hard day at the office.

Lisa McDonald

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