* SKANDIA UNDERGOES FINAL CHECKS AHEAD OF DEPARTURE FOR VENDEE GLOBE START PORT…
* DECREASING DAYLIGHT HOURS IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE BUT THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE OFFERS MORE DAYLIGHT ALBEIT IN ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST INHOSPITABLE REGIONS…
* THE VENDEE GLOBE WEATHER (PART 2) : THE SOUTHERN OCEAN…
* 38 DAYS TO THE START…
They say everything about long-haul, offshore racing is in the preparation and over the last week Nick’s Open 60 Skandia has gone through some further final checks. “It is so important to check everything, then check it again and again and again,” said Skandia skipper, Nick. “One of the greatest threats to me fulfilling this Vendée goal is gear failure – I have to totally trust my shore team in this because they are the ones making all the final checks. Every rigging pin, every seal, no detail is too small to be overlooked.” To this end, Skandia was lifted out of the water for a full antifoul of hull, keel and rudder. The new sails have all been back to North Sails in France for a full check and returned to Skandia at her Cowes base by Bruno Dubois. A final rig check will be carried out by Marco Lefebvre from V1D2 and a final B&G autopilot and instrument check will be carried by Alan Davies. Once these are completed Skandia will be packed for delivery to Les Sables d’Olonne for the October 16th deadline to be in the race village.
With only 38 days to the start of the solo, non-stop Vendée Globe race, autumn in the Northern Hemisphere marches on and darkness closes in earlier and earlier, leaving for work in darkness and arriving home in darkness will soon become the norm… Nick, on the other hand, will be able to look forward to comparatively more daylight hours as he races Skandia through the Southern Ocean this winter where there is on average only 5 hours of darkness per day, however he will be enduring one of the world’s most inhospitable environments. The first Albatross sighting is a sure sign of arrival in the Southern Ocean – these birds are the legendary protectors of seafarers and seen in full flight are truly spectacular. Although a welcome sight, these majestic birds are an indication of the solitude that lay ahead in freezing and dangerous conditions. The Vendée Globe sailor will spend approximately 35 days between rounding the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa and rounding Cape Horn at the tip of South America. For Nick, his arrival at Cape Horn is likely to be around the 64 day mark – the same amount of time it took him and the crew of the 110′ catamaran, Orange, to circumnavigate the globe for the Jules Verne Trophy.
The greatest threat to the safety of the solo skippers in the Southern Ocean is ice. The big ‘bergs’ are picked up on the boat’s radar and are easier to spot, although in pitch darkness, hurtling along at speed, it is still a frightening experience for any skipper. But it is the small ‘growlers’ – small segments of ice, sheared off from the icebergs, that float nearly totally submerged, that pose the biggest threat. Struck at speed, these growlers can pierce a hull. The Vendée Globe race organisers will decide on obligatory waypoints to keep the fleet from traveling too far south to reduce the threat of high iceberg activity. However, this will not eradicate the dangers…many skippers in the last Vendée Globe 2000-01 encountered ice and Ellen MacArthur racing Kingfisher (now Skandia) saw 10 icebergs in one day at 57 degrees south.
THE WEATHER (PART 2)
Into the Southern Hemisphere and all weather circulation systems turn the opposite way to the Northern Hemisphere. Boats look to position themselves onto the front side of the low-pressure zones that run ceaselessly around the planet, so that they experience downwind conditions and fast sailing all the way. The fleet will be aiming to sail as far south as possible to shorten the distance sailed, whilst respecting the obligatory waypoints (imaginary positions that help keep boats away from dangerous iceberg territory). Sailing too far south, however, and boats may get to the south side of the low-pressure centres which would mean upwind sailing, making slow and dangerous progress.
The weather encountered in the Southern Ocean is truly the toughest weather that any sailor will ever encounter anywhere. It is cold, often well below freezing, it is windy, often with hurricane force winds, it is rough with a constant ocean swell that can deliver ‘rollers’ (waves) over 12 meters high. There is no shelter anywhere and as each depression passes over another one is preparing behind. The fleet will spend about five weeks sailing in these conditions, which take a terrible toll on skipper and equipment. Careful positioning of the boat, however, will mean that the favourable winds will be encountered first and for longer and so great distances will be sailed and large gaps either made or reduced by the wise.
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