Red dot = Kingfisher2, red square = Geronimo, red X = Orange. Compare: K2 d17 0700, Orange d17 and 0300 28 Jan position for Geronimo

Red dot = Kingfisher2, red square = Geronimo, red X = Orange. Compare: K2 d17 0700, Orange d17 and 0300 28 Jan position for Geronimo


Ellen MacArthur and Andrew Preece report from on board Kingfisher2

Sunday February 16th 2003, Author: Offshore Challenges, Location: Transoceanic
Day17 Position 24hr run Av speed Relative positions*
Kingfisher2 41°22S 04°15W 507nm 21.13 -178nm
Geronimo 40°59S 22°32E 470nm 19.58 +1065nm
Orange 38°14S 00°20W 540nm 22.52 -
*Geronimo position measured relative to Orange's position, Kingfisher2's position measured relative to Orange's longitude
Boat speed in last hour: 22.1 knots
Heading: 091deg

Ellen phonecall 0500GMT: communications by BT

"The sea state is about 5-6 meters, we have the spinnaker up and three reefs in the main. The seas have been quite crossed and were much, much worse earlier so now still quite nasty but the boat is sailing pretty nicely with the kite. Bit of an issue about 36 hours ago - sailing along and we noticed something a bit funny with the wind angle whereby when we gybed it wasn't reading the correct angle. So we played around and had a look to try and work out what is wrong. Eventually we discovered there was a corroded plug at the base of the mast - we had decided to tackle the problem by checking each connection stage by stage and finally found the damaged plug, nearly the last one left, and we hard-wired it back into the system.

"Conditions right now - sea flatter, sailing along at 20+ knots in a 35 knot breeze. It is forecast to get lighter for the rest of today then deteriorate in about 42 hours when another depression - a small low but with very, very strong breeze - will arrive. Will have to make a call on how deep we sail with the new low, and how far north we go before this new low arrives. Sea state is going to be big and the wind angle in front not fantastic so may have to shoot up north to deal with that one..."


Yesterday we went 'down the mine' for the first time in this voyage. "Beautiful" said Neal as the bows and front beam stuffed into the wave ahead and the boat speed dropped from the mid-20s to under 10 knots. "The first of many," he enthused. Ellen was not so happy - she had been mixing a drink in the galley and it catapulted all over Nigel.

There was a different tone in Neal's voice as he took over for his watch at 2000 last night. The way he was talking non-stop and enthusing about the conditions, I could tell the adrenalin was running. The boat had been pummelling along at 30 knots all afternoon, the wind was building and night was coming. "Take a look at that sun," he said. "It might be the last time you see it for a month."

And by today our world had changed. We were chasing down a low pressure that was pumping 60 knots in its centre. The waves were forecast to build to 10 metres and as we got closer to the low, the wind swung ahead and it started to get rocky. All night the crack of the waves slamming into the beam where it joins the port (leeward) hull sounded like gunfire. And The Hilton (port hull) and the Best Western (starboard hull) appeared to be in a race to beat each other south, the boat wracking and writhing under the twisting force of every wave. Sleep was nearly impossible.

It was made all the more impossible when Hendo pitched us in in the middle of a moonlit night. I had left the deck about half an hour before after we put in the second reef as the wind built to 35 knots. I was revelling in the comfort of a sleeping bag that was, for the time being, dry. Hendo punched it in mildly the first time, the only effect being a slip down the bunk and foot contact with the bulkhead, a mildly pleasant experience that told of the pace we were pushing up on deck. The second time was different. The front beam put the bow in, the boat lurched to a standstill and for a second I was standing on the bulkhead flexing my muscles to prevent myself from folding up; over in the starboard hull I learned the same stuffing had bowled Hervé over on his way to talk to Ellen.

Over in the starboard hull I thought the incident was over. WRONG! As the bow pitched in, a wall of water hurled itself aft and filled the port cockpit. About ten seconds later there was a cascade down the dorade vent and straight into the open mouth of my sleeping bag! A gallon or so drenched me and the bag and seeped under the bag and onto the mattress soaking the whole bunk. It was a moment where I had to fight very hard to contain my emotions which would, if I had let them, ranged from rage to despondency to overwhelming self-pity. But one can't afford to let emotions like that surface when we have three or four weeks of this stuff ahead of us. I reeled myself in, took off my soaking thermal top and set about trying to avoid the wet bit in the hope that I would get back to sleep and dry it out with my body heat.

I don't know what it is about this trip. First I was soaked when the media station hatch flew open and a cascade of water forced its way aboard. And now this: I'm on my third pair of socks from four and we have hardly scratched the surface of discomfort.

But enough about me. What about the Jules Verne record? Well, we have had a couple of storming days and have made ground on both Orange and Geronimo. The view on the boat is that the shape of every record attempt will be different and if we were to read too much into the fact that we are behind now on such a mammoth voyage we would be making a grave error. Geronimo is suffering now at the end of the Southern Ocean and approaching Cape Horn, we had a tough time last week but are rocking now. Ellen worked out that if we can do the Southern Ocean on an average of two knots faster than Geronimo then we will be level pegging at The Horn.

Two knots sounds a lot but Geronimo had a dream first section but has not blazed a similar trail across the Southern Ocean. We have a chance and we hope we will be in a position to take it. Certainly the next few days will be high octane as we maintain contact with the low ahead of us until tomorrow and then swap horses John Wayne-style to a low that is coming up behind us that we could ride for sometime. This is wet, bumpy and painful progress but it is certainly quick. As Hendo says, 'this is what we all signed up for. We've got to grunt up and show we can handle it.' The waves are up to around six metres in height, the bows swoop low as we pummel down the wave face. If you came and did this for a day you would go home with a grin from ear to ear. But the Southern Ocean doesn't deliver day trips.
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