The great divide

200 miles currently separates News Corp from djuice across the Volvo's South Atlantic race track

Thursday February 14th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Top Speed 36.1 knots - on illbruck Stu Bannatyne reminisces about the Southern Ocean
We are now entering much warmer waters and the breeze has shifted behind. Temperatures are now balmy on deck and the memories of the harsh Southern Ocean are fading with each mile we head north. Time then to reflect on what was a very memorable, classic Southern Ocean experience.

We had it all, icebergs with amazing regularity, fortunately none came out night! We finally had the trademark Southern Ocean sleigh ride of heavy air downwind sailing for the whole traverse of the southern latitudes. It was an often exhilarating, often tense, hang on, white knuckling ride, interspersed with regular squalls of snow, hail and sleet. The adrenaline was pumping hard as each new squall line would appear over the horizon and we wondered just how much breeze this one would bring.

Fortunately for us we have a great team and were able to ride out each storm without any dramas, once hanging onto a spinnaker in a brief puff of 47 knots, thanks Hooray [Ray Davies], nice job for not tipping us out!

I particularly remember one afternoon I had a drive for a couple of hours in dreamlike conditions. The breeze was averaging around 37 knots with occasional puffs to 42; the waves were lined up nicely and actually had a bit of space between them to allow the boat to accelerate to break neck speeds. With a storm spinnaker and a reef in the main we averaged just under 23 knots boat speed for those few hours with regular bursts into the 30s and a top speed of 36.1 knots! I have to admit, I loved every minute of it, such sailing conditions cannot be found anywhere else on the planet and for those few hours I was more than happy to be there.

We have discussed at length among our crew who we should nominate for the Sjoo Sandstrom seamanship award for this leg and we struggled to come up with one standout person. So here it is, we nominate our entire crew for an outstanding effort to come through the Southern Ocean safely and unscathed.

Touch wood we can keep it all together for the remainder of the leg. We never had to send anyone up the rig (very hazardous and un-seamanlike manoeuvre), we did not lose any sails, we had no wipeouts, we kept our mast in our boat, we dodged icebergs, we have had no injuries on board, we didn't send anyone into the icy cold waters and we didn't take any risks navigating through rocky islands at night in strong currents.

So there it is, I think a very safe passage through the often treacherous Southern Ocean and beyond by the illbruck crew, a journey teeming with good seamanship.

And as for tomorrow, a very happy Valentines Day to all our loved ones, we know you are at least as thankful as us that we made it through the notorious Southern Ocean unscathed.

Stu Bannatyne

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