Velux 5 Oceans: Alex Thomson reports on a Southern Ocean baptism of fire

Sunday, 19 November 2006

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Well I guess you probably noticed that HUGO BOSS and I have entered the Southern Ocean and Friday night was a baptisim of fire, 35 knots of wind and hooning along, often with boat speeds into the high 20s.  Even broke my top ever speed on the boat when we went down a wave and hit 30.8 knots.  Glad I was down below at the time!!

I'm also very thankful that my tactics to go around the high pressure have paid off. I have sailed soooo many more miles than the other boats, often at speed, and it’s been hard work maintaining the pace, remembering not to push too hard and rounding the outside of the bend.  I guess it’s like being an athlete and being given the outside lane.  But hey it’s worked and on Friday I overtook Koji on Spirit of Yukoh who has been doing an awesome job. And finally I went past Golding and moved into second pace in the race, my highest placing in the race since the start nearly four weeks ago.

Christ four weeks - that is a long time! This will soon be my longest time at sea ever but life has settled into some kind of normality now. Last night I was very nervous, even scared at points. I have not done these speeds for such a long time. It seemed a bit alien at first, especially when the boat was really steaming along in the dark and through the night. It’s not something I'm very accustomed to but I felt very alone then.  I battened down the hatches so to speak, reduced sail and settled in for the night.  I did manage to get some sleep, but it was very fitful, as the movement of the boat was pretty extreme.

Although not wanting to push too hard, I was conscious that I had to try to stay ahead of the weather, and of course take second place from Golding who was further north and in lighter wind. My wind was lighter yesterday but still gusting, and the boat still launches itself off the waves at an alarming angle. I had a major broach (falling over) in the morning and had forgotten to close the breather on the fuel tank - bugger! Diesel everywhere, followed by a headache from the major clean up!! Thankfully not too bad.

There's a new low pressure building behind us, with more 30 - 40 knot winds. So my priority has been to check the boat over and get ready for another foam up.  Although I am up to second place and very happy about that I have to be conscious of my overall goals:

1. To finish

2. To learn especially for the new boat

3. To compete 

Golding will not be happy to be behind me especially as he had a good 200 miles on me a week ago and is sailing a faster, newer boat.  He is also a master down here in the South. It seems he spends most of his winters down here going eastabout or westabout, and during the Vendée he was fast, very fast.  I need to be careful not to be drawn into a 5000 nm match race in big winds and big seas. It would be all too easy to bust something and all three goals would be history. 

However, in saying that, it’s not in my nature to back off but I'm very mindful of goal 2, LEARN and backing sometimes is a good thing to learn. For Golding I guess it’s a little different. He needs to win this race, having never won either this one or the Vendee before, so I think there's a good chance he'll push the guts out of his boat and work hard on his race strategy. This will be interesting for me to watch and learn from. Bernard is still on fire, and from the weather ahead, he looks good to maintain his lead or even short to medium term extend slightly. Good on him.

Alex Thomson  

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 November 2006 )