martedì 20 dicembre 2011

A non-stop pounding for the Global Ocean Race fleet in the Roaring Forties

The Indian Ocean’s Roaring Forties continue to punish the double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet. As the leading pair of Class40s plummet south beyond the eastern extremity of the Australian Ice Limit led by Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild on Cessna Citation, there has been drama on BSL in second place as Ross and Campbell Field knife their spinnaker sheets in a 48-knot squall, managing to save the spinnaker and their carbon fibre mast. In third place, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron made the hard choice to head north with Campagne de France and avoid 50-knot winds chasing them along the ice limit. In fifth place, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire recorded speeds of 18 knots as a low pressure system passed over Phesheya-Racing early evening GMT on Sunday, while Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon with Financial Crisis lost control of their Akilaria in a 55-knot gust.

For Ross and Campbell Field, Sunday night was a demanding but relatively average, GOR evening in the Southern Ocean; running under spinnaker in 20-30 knots of breeze at 46S, reefing periodically in wind increasing by ten knots in as many seconds and rotating helm duty frequently. “It was around midnight, black as the inside of a cow again, but the wind was reasonably stable,” begins Ross Field. With the breeze stabilising, he headed below for some rest. “I was deep asleep and got this scream from on deck,” says Ross, reacting instantly. “I leapt out of bed, put my boots on - wrong feet in each - and came through the hatch like greased lightning.” The scene on deck was alarming with the Class40 on the edge of control in howling wind, rain and hail. “I saw the wake out the back of the boat foaming and Campbell steering, looking straight ahead with his eyes as big as saucers.” Glancing at the cockpit readouts revealed 48 knots of wind speed. “F*** was used a lot whilst we discussed how the f*** we were going to get out of this,” he recalls.

With the Fields’ three year-old, Verdier-designed Class40 fully-loaded, the yacht seemed unstoppable: “There was spray everywhere and it was freezing cold,” continues Ross. “I took over driving and man it was all on!” Campbell Field went forward and attempted to snuff the spinnaker, but with the wind building further, pulling the sock down over the sail was impossible and losing the mast became a very real risk. “The spinnaker ended up flying horizontally from the masthead and the knife was out, cutting sheets so the rig stayed in the boat.” With the spinnaker overboard, BSL towed the sail until the wind eased to 25 knots. “We winched it on board fearing the worst but, unbelievably, it’s still in one piece - bloody amazing!”

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