Southern Ocean gale

Derek Hatfield now into the gale's centre on the Velux 5 Oceans' second leg

Wednesday January 5th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield was today 'licking his wounds' after a 12-hour battering from a Southern Ocean gale that brought with it winds of more than 40 knots and huge, confused seas. The 57-year-old’s only respite from the carnage came when he reached the centre of the depression and winds suddenly dropped to around 10 knots.

After managing to sleep less than an hour in the past 24 hours, Hatfield was this morning taking advantage of the lighter winds found in the very centre of the depression to catch up on some desperately needed rest. But it was by no means over yet for the skipper of Active House – Hatfield must face the storm again, the second half of it standing in between him and his escape into more favourable conditions.

“I’m licking my wounds here, it’s been a heck of a day,” said Hatfield. “The storm seems to be in remission right now but it’s coming back for sure. It hit in the morning and it was pretty extreme in its power. The GRIB files showed that it was going to build slowly to about 25 knots but I saw 40 knots. I took a couple of big hits from some waves but luckily I wasn’t rolled or knocked down. It’s a pretty extreme place, not for the faint of heart at all.”

The relentless mauling then suddenly subsided as Hatfield reached the eye of the storm. Despite providing a rest from the gale force winds, Hatfield had to face a different and equally dangerous situation: huge, confused waves, with no wind to power Active House over them.

“It was horrendous,” added Hatfield, who has shot into second place ahead of Zbigniew Gutkowski. “Huge pyramids of water smashing around all over the place. It was the worst banging and crashing off waves I have ever had. Even on the small waves the boat was falling off them and slamming down bow first. It’s a wonder the mast is still attached to the boat.”

It was a similar situation onboard Gutkowski’s Operon Racing, now trailing Hatfield by 15 nautical miles. “Only the swell is left and it is hitting Operon Racing badly,” Gutkowski said. “I am in the eye of the storm just waiting for the next big blow.”

Leg two positions at 0000GMT:

Skipper / DTF / DTF / Dist 24 hrs / Av speed 24 hrs (kts)

Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 2589.8/ 0 / 298.7 / 12.4
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 2838.9/ 249.1 / 244.8/ 10.2
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 2854.5/ 264.7 / 214.8/ 9
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 3560.1/ 970.3/ 202 / 8.4

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