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  • A Call to AntarcticaOn March 10, 2009 at 13:43:19 French time, Skipper Rich Wilson and Great American III crossed the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne. Race time: 121 days, 41 minutes and 19 seconds
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Ship Log Archive: January, 2009

  • Jan
    31

    Day 83 - Unpredictable weather

    January 31, 2009 - 2115utc 43/36S 51/42W, sailing away from France discouragingly. We’re trying to get to the other side of this massive low that is forecast to envelope the entire southwestern South Atlantic. Tacked last night to head for the oncoming trough. I thought I had it figured out with the weather map files and information from NOAA from the US. The only map that disagreed was France Meteo, which of course turned out to be right, or at least I think.  We have since I've gone 100 miles past where the weather files said the trough would be, up to 6 hours from when it was supposed to be there, and I'm still going west to find the trough.

    Discouraging, but it’s better than what I was a few hours ago.

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  • Jan
    30

    Day 82 - A tired skipper and boat

    1926 utc, 45/53S  49/15W, 8.7knots @ 049T, staysail and 2 reefs in main, upwind, port tack, going into high. Studying multiple weather maps for when to tack to stay on the west side of the big low developing off the coast. If we tack to soon, we sit in the middle of a stalled trough; if we tack too late and get on the wrong side of the low, we wind up with very strong headwinds. Of course any decision is subject to the weather actually doing what the forecast says.

    So, thinking that if you tack too late, you can't make up the distance if the system has speeded up, we'll tack a bit earlier than appears to be optimal, so that if the system has sped up, we'll hopefully still be on the correct side.

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  • Jan
    29

    Day 81 - Violent Seas

    Distance covered over last 24 hours: 202.9 nautical miles. 35-45 knots of wind across the deck. Storm jib up and 3 reefs in the main. 15-foot breaking seas. 10.5 knots at 45deg T. Trying to slow down the boat, but it keeps heeling so that when the boat leaps off a wave it lands on its side, not its bottom. Violent outside. Violent inside.

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  • Jan
    29

    Day 80 - Straightforward Passage Dashed

    January 28, 2009 - Day 80

    Sailed east of Falkland Islands. When saw a blue shading within the 200m line of depth on the southeast side of the islands, then on zoom, saw seaweed icons, did a big swerve to get offshore again, thinking that the last thing I needed was to sail into a kelp bed and get stuck in the light air conditions.

    Came across a small cruising sailboat dead ahead, radar didn't pick it up at all.

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  • Jan
    27

    Day 79 - Steering by Compass

    2127 UTC, 53/09S  60/32W, 10 knots @ 055T, solent and 2 reefs in main, heading east of Falklands. Weather for tonight suggested it would be dead upwind to go West, which I preferred, simply to get north faster, but that going east won't really lose anything because of weather pattern of both sides in next day or so, so here we go. Will likely get a big lee tonight which could be frustrating. About an hour ago, we were buzzed by a fighter plane, likely Royal Air Force from Falklands.

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  • Jan
    26

    Day 78 - A Big Day!

    A big day. Great American III passed the longitude of Cape Horn at 1350 utc today. Thus "rounding" Cape Horn at 56/19S  67/15W. I didn't think that we would see the island or the Cape becuase the weather was gray, gray, gray, foggy, misty rainy, overcast, but after rolling out a reef (#3 to #2, 165 grinds on the middle gear on the pedestal winch), I looked up and there it was, the mist and fog had cleared, and about 15 miles away was Horn Island, very dramatic, stark, no-nonsense for the end of terra firma.

    I'm so tired from being up all last night again that when the Iridium phone rang this morning, after I had collapsed in sleep after gybing near the islands to get away from them, I awoke and I didn't know where I was.

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  • Jan
    25

    Day 77 - 150 miles to The Horn!

    On course for Cape Horn, 150 miles ahead. Solent and 2 reefs in the main, broad reaching. Being very conservative, considering where we are. Planning to go across the shelf as seas are moderate. A wave in the weather system is coming through later tonight; don't know what to expect exactly, but will gybe to the south when the wind shifts to the west, and then back when it shifts back later on. The goal is as much Staten Island, 150nm beyond Cape Horn as Horn Island itself.

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  • Jan
    24

    Day 76 - An unsettling gybe

    2120utc   55/04S 79/16W   9.3 knots @ 151T, solent and 2 reefs, gray gray gray, albatross flying around, barograph steady at 993mb, heading south as a bit more favorable within the parameters of wind shifts in the next few days, bit awkward wind shifts that will make it longer to get to Cape Horn.

    Not planned, tried to stay away in fact, but had to gybe this morning because of the wind direction and our desire to get to the Horn, and now we find ourselves eerily in the lat/long of our capsize in 1990, 55s/79w.

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  • Jan
    23

    Day 75 - That was close!

    1800utc, 54/41s 96/09w, 10.9 knots @ 136degT, staysail and 3 reefs in main. Had solent and 2 reefs up when I saw the blackest line of squalls, so hurriedly put in the 3rd reef and rolled up the solent, finishing about 30 seconds before the wind blast. Whew, that was close. Heading into the low to the south for a bit more, then will gybe to make easting.

    Regarding yesterday's climb, thanks to Hugues Riousse for thoughts on descenders, Pierre for his paragliding harness, Trip Lowell for his hockey elbow pads, Scott Hamilton for extra carabiniers, Bob Shotwell for the Leatherman, Jack Boye for the helmet.

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  • Jan
    22

    Day 74 - A momentous day

    End of day, 2345 UTC, 53/08S  89/45W, 6.2 knots@142T. Light winds all day today as a high pressure system smothers large area. Huge thunderheads, but further  spaced apart than yesterday. Cold. Very odd to have these conditions on approach to Cape Horn, but will get much more wind in 24-36 hours. Had a bit of a blast of wind an hour ago and were making 12.5 knots with solent and 2 reefs. It was very satisfying to sail fast in smooth seas.

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  • Jan
    21

    Day 73 - Quick Update

    1725utc 50/41s 95/44w, 10.6 knots @ 122T, staysail and 2 reefs in the mainsail, sea reducing, cold, blue sky with squalls from time to time, reaching. Got two naps in this morning, transferred fuel from main tanks to buffer tank for the next week. Weather should be consistent for next 24 hours then perhaps lighter wind.

    I read President Obama's Inaugural Address. It was brilliant, and I recommend it to all.

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  • Jan
    20

    Day 72 - Hitting the deck

    1630utc 49/04s 100/50w, 11.5knots @ 095T, 30-35knots wind, again, WNW, storm jib, 3 reefs in main, big, big seas. Last night, napped at chart table, athwartships in boat, on cushions like a reclining chair, had on stocking cap, fleece balaclava on top of that, then 3 layers of down vest, jacket, jacket w/hood, so much cushioning on my head. Chaotic sea state w/20-25 foot swells, and smaller breaking seas in several trains, on top. While asleep, knocked by a wave out of the bench, which is about 1 meter off the floor, rotated from hips down and fell 1 meter directly onto the top of my head on the floor, head and neck took the direct impact, no blood, head hurts, neck hurts, called Dr.

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  • Jan
    19

    Day 71 - Into the westerlies

    1327 UTC  46/22S 105/55W, staysail, 3 reefs, 20 knots wind, 11.1 knots speed, on course for Cape Horn waypoint south of Diego Ramirez Island. Finally into the westerly winds. Some squalls through the night to 30 knots, boatspeed to 22 knots, too fast at this point, thus the 3 reefs. Reacher had been furled just before first set of squalls came through. Later in the night, lowered it and stowed it.

    Well before the sun came up there was a gigantic white glow from the south, almost as if you could see the daytime daylight at the artic circle behind the cloud banks.

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  • Jan
    19

    Day 70 - A Serious Problem

    January 18, 2009 - Reached the East Pacific ice gate today. 1700 nautical miles to Cape Horn. We have pounded up to the ice gate in chaotic big seas and a lightening breeze. Made eight sail changes after reaching the ice gate.

    Serious problem today. One of the topmast runners got hooked around the second spreader on the mast. When this happens and it goes unnoticed, gybing or tacking can break the spreader and the mast will come down.

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  • Jan
    17

    Day 69 - Chaotic seas

    1746utc 44/29S  113/30W, 10.3 knots speed at 077T, storm jib, 3 reefs in main, beam reaching, 30-45 knots wind across deck, again. 154 nm to next ice gate. Boat taking terrible pounding in 18-22 foot cross seas, breaking seas. Boat motion is violent, dangerous outside on deck, and dangerous inside also--must be braced in every direction at all times. I eased the keel cant some last night so that the boat would crash land more on her side than on her bottom, that seemed to help.

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  • Jan
    16

    Day 68 - Familiar Territory

    2005utc 44/26/s 118/41w, wind 25-30 knots north and building, speed 9 knots, storm jib and 3 reefs in main, seas 15 feet and building. Earlier we sailed directly into the trough of the elongated low, the extra tropical storm HETA, which has been sitting here in mid-Pacific spinning off secondary lows. Heta is finally about to move itself to the southeast and on to Cape Horn. After getting the big windshift at the trough mid-pint, we are coming out the east side and heading directly for the east Pacific ice gate.

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  • Jan
    15

    Day 67 - Crossing to the North

    2230 utc 45/46s 121/25w, 11 knots at 027T, storm jib and 3 reefs in the main. We are trying to get north, across the trough of the storm, and head out the other side toward the ice gate. We just can't go to windward in the big seas and 35-40 knots of wind that we have, so we have to go a ciruitous route.

    Reached 17,000 nautical miles on the log today.

    Had nice chat with Steve White today; he's making good speed toward the Horn.

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  • Jan
    14

    Day 66 - Alone in the south

    1108 utc  49/11s 128/48w 10.3 knots speed heading east , 25-28 knots SSE wind, staysail and 3 reefs. Distance traveled in last 24 hours: 176.8 nautical miles. Tried the storm jib when it got dark last night, but that slowed the boat from 10.5 to 7.5 knots, more than even I could accept (and I'm very conservative), so went back to staysail. Staysail is too big on the boat, need one smaller as there is too big of a gap between it and storm jib.

    Now we're in front part of new low being spun off of the main low.

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  • Jan
    13

    Day 65 - A foreboding low

    Wind hole at the start of the day, then the ominous dark of the low appeared over the horizon to the NW, very foreboding. As wind came in we followed it around until heading turned SSW; then gybed to get going in the right direction with a wind that was permanent. Quickly went from solent and one reef, to staysail and one reef, then staysail and two reefs, finally staysail and three reefs as wind came in from SE, then SSE.

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  • Jan
    12

    Day 64 - Weather Warning

    1651utc, 48/39S 136/31W, 6.2knots @ 135T, solent, 2 reefs, wind 8 knots SW. Distance covered in last 24 hours: 129 nautical miles. After making 10-11 knots since the ice gate, trying to outrace the approaching storm and intermediate no wind zone, we've been overtaken by the no wind zone, and the speed went from 12.5 at the start of a nap, to 3.0 in the middle of the nap, and the slatting sails and banging boat in the leftover sea woke me.

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  • Jan
    11

    Day 63 - Storm jib is ready

    1720 utc  47/08S 141/08W, 10.4 knots speed, staysail, three reefs, 25 knots SW wind. Running southeast to try to escape the worst of the coming storm. At the ice gate, had a choice to continue ENE or gybe and head south. Did not think I could get across into the downwind side of the approaching storm because we were at a crossroads of four weather systems, and there was a big no-wind area in the middle. Also, I did not want to put us into the worst quadrant of the storm, I opted south.

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  • Jan
    10

    Day 62 - Winch repair

    1813utc 46/01s 146/17w, 10 knots speed, 15 knots west wind, reacher and one reef, sailing deep, aiming directly at west end of west Pacific ice gate, plan to gybe immediately to head southeast to try to escape before extra-tropical low arrives. It will be close.

    I'm having problems with the utility winch in cockpit--the low speed is not catching all pawls. Since this winch is an important piece of equipment, I have to make some kind of repair.

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  • Jan
    09

    Day 61 - Now is the time

    2310 utc 47/37S 151/01W, reacher and one reef, 14.2 knots speed, 20 knots west wind, going for west Pacific ice gate. There is an intense low located north of the high that I am presently sitting in, and the low has just been sitting there, perfectly formed. But the weather files showed it originally to be moving slowly, and then dissolving against high. The latest weather file shows that the low will continue moving to the south, and it will eventually overtake this area with a strong east wind.

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  • Jan
    09

    Day 60 - Past the New Zealand ice gate

    January 8, 2009
    Distance covered the last 24 hours: 239.3 nautical miles. Finally passed the eastern end of the New Zealand ice gate. There is a big high pressure system to the north, and the next gate is ENE, but the wind is mostly west and therefore pushing us closer to the no-wind area of the high. Set the reacher last night but kept the first reef in the main as I think it is more stable for the unstable downwind conditions we have with lightening wind and trying to sail deep to avoid the high.

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  • Jan
    07

    The Bond Between Mariners

    1734utc 48/08S 164/39W, 12 knots @ 093T, staysail and 3 reefs in the mainsail, seas down, 25 knots NNW wind, barograph 1023mb. Distance sailed in last 24 hours: 269.8 nautical miles.

    Huge relief at hearing the news of Jean Le Cam's rescue. The whole episode was 200 miles east of where we capsized in 1990, so that  brought back many scary memories, of the dark, the cold, the water, inside the boat. I think that Jean Le Cam showed incredible courage, courage beyond description, to depart the bow compartment.

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  • Jan
    06

    Je pense de Jean

    175utc 48/03S 171/35W storm jib and 3 reefs in the mainsail, 30 knots N wind, speed 10.2 knots @ 090T for New Zealand ice gate west end. Miles covered in last 24 hours: 286.8 nautical miles.

    Le bateua va bien et je vias bien. Je pense de Jean Le Cam qui est chavira pres de Cap Horn.

    Il y a dix-hit ans, nous sommes chavira dans le trimaran de soixant pieds GA tres pres de son position. J'ai recu les nouvelles qu'il est en vie, quelles bonnes nouvelles, et maintent un systeme pour Jean a partir le bateau avec securite.

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  • Jan
    05

    Moving Forward

    0745 utc 48/38S 178/28E 12.5kts boatspeed @074T, staysail, 2 reefs, 25 knots wind NW, moderate seas. Distance covered in last 24  hours: 258.9 nautical miles.

    We came a bit more north than the direct route in anticipation of a wind shift to the north. We're making a slowly arcing route toward the west end of the New Zealand ice gate. We sailed off the Campbell Plateau into deeper waters. Think I could see a difference, but the wind was also coming down at the same time.

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  • Jan
    04

    Heading into the Pacific Alone

    1146 utc, 49/56S 172/43E, staysail, 2 reefs, 20-25kts NW, speed 11.8 @ 067T

    Fast day downwind, now with the wind changing forward, fast again. Mostly solent and 3rd reef downwind today with a 30-35 knot WNW wind, then down to staysail and 3 reefs, then when wind dropped a bit to 20-25 knots and went forward, went back up with 2nd reef.

    Aiming at a waypoint to the NW of the route to the ice gate. Another low coming along and want to try to get a bit more north (Halleluja!

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  • Jan
    03

    Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    0848 utc 51/04S 165/19E 9kts, staysail, 3 reefs, awaiting frontal passage. Distance covered in last 24 hours: 217.9 nautical miles.

    Last night, on the other gybe, heading ESE, trying to get far enough to gybe and head at a good angle to the New Zealand ice gate, we got to 52/30S, and were going farther. In that situation, one is always hoping for a small windshift to legitimize a gybe, so we could get out of there. It's too far south, too cold, too risky, etc.

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  • Jan
    02

    Surf's Up!

    Janvier 2 2009, 0509utc 51/54S 158/26E 10.9 knots @ 106degT, staysail, 3 reefs in main, 25-30 knots sw wind, 15 foot seas building. Covered 268.4 nautical miles in the last 24 hours. Here we are again, 30 knots of wind, boat surfing to 18 knots under 2nd reef and staysail, so put in 3rd reef to slow the top end speeds to reduce risk, and it really didn't make any difference, the boat still surfs to 18 knots, perhaps more occasionally.

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  • Jan
    01

    A New Day, A New Year

    0530 utc  51/26S 150/59E, 11.6 knots at 085T, solent and one reef in the mainsail, SW wind at 20 knots.

    Earlier this morning, after a night of 15-18 knots of wind, a squall suddenly came through with 38 knots of wind and hail and sleet. This made me a bit gun shy to hoist more sail for a while, as it laid the boat over pretty far. I was able to get outside, without foul weather gear, to release the mainsheet, and one of my down-below jackets got quite wet.

    Spoke with Derek again today to say his new year will get happier, he is about 400 miles from Tasmania, goal is Hobart.

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