Last night there was a little wind around blowing 25-30 knots from the North then backing to the North West. Although I put the third reef in the main sail I shook it out again almost immediately and I remained with the 2nd reef in the main sail. I was mostly running with it on a 110-degree wind angle. I only managed to get the boat speed up to 7 knots but it really should have been 9-10 knots, however a little issue of some kelp hitching a ride is slowing me down a lot.
It was a long night with many sail changes and I didn’t manage to get to bed until 2am. Just before I went to bed I noticed that I had sailed passed 105 degree East on the longitude. This is important as this is where Fedor headed north when he competed in the Antarctica Cup Yacht Race. I am running a different race, however when I left Albany it was still my intention to try and beat the established time of 102 days set by Fedor. This went out the window when my mast came crashing down but I have still been keeping an eye on what would have been….. and 105 East is the last position before our tracks take different paths. In the Antarctica Cup Race Fedor was able to turn left for Albany any time after 105 East, he turned and had an 850nm run to the finish. I was doing a different race and intended to cross my track below 45 south so that I will have completed a full circumnavigation around Antarctica solo, unassisted and all below 45 south. This is why, when I started off I took a run directly south. So, for me that meant that my final run to the finish from that 105degree point is around 1200 nm. (about 350nm longer) I had always hoped to still break Fedors record (even if it didn't count) regardless of these extra miles, however given my annoying Easterly storm that is not looking likely.......... however at that last point of common track, at the 105 East mark, Fedor crossed this point in 96 days and 19 hours. Last night, if we just consider my benchmark time, where I discount the trip to Cape Town I crossed this point in 95 Day and 20 hours, A whole day in front at this late point in the game is something to be proud of indeed.
The remainder of the night last night had me getting up every 2 hours to do a sail change. 4 am I shook out to the 1st reef and un-furled a bit more stay sail on the Pro Furler and at 6 am I was again on deck to shake out to the full main and to change over the head sail so that I was now flying the genoa. The winds were again from the North and now blowing 10 knots, my speed dropped a lot. I still hadn’t managed any real sleep so I went once again back to bed. At 10 am I was shocked awake to the auto pilot alarms going off, looking at the B and G Zeus I couldn’t see an issue, I was sailing beam reach as I left the boat, a few seconds later I twigged. The winds had done a dramatic shift from the NNW to the SW and whiles the winds were still on the beam they were blowing over the wrong side of the boat... I had the mainsail pinned out with the preventer line so the boat had effectively gone into a hove too position. I didn’t bother with adding more layers as I needed to get on deck in a hurry and sort the boat out, so I just threw on my life jacket and climbed on-deck in my thermals.
Whilst I was only in 13 knots of wind I did have the full main sail up so there was a lot of pressure on everything so urgency was key. The first thing I did was release the running backstay. If the preventer line was to snap the main sail and boom would come flying across the boat and smash into the running backstay and I didn’t want to risk any damage getting done. I then got the preventer line on the winch and was about to release it when the thought occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity to try and get rid of the kelp on the keel. The boat was pinned on a starboard tack and the winds were drifting me sideways to the port so I poked my head over the beam of the starboard deck to see if I could see the kelp. Could I ever! It wasn’t a stringy piece of kelp wrapped around the keel like I thought, instead I was looking at a tree size chunk of kelp wrapped neatly around my keel. It was its own eco system it was that large and it is no wonder that I have been going so slow dragging a tree along with me... It had to go and if I could get rid of it today before my strong easterlies all the better. I bolted below and grabbed the boat hook but try as I might I couldn’t get a grip on it. It also was sitting near the bottom of the keel and a few meters under water making it hard to even reach. I was just trying to grip one of the branches with the idea of pulling the rest away with that but I couldn’t get close.
Abandoning that idea, I looked at the surrounding conditions. This was likely the calmest conditions that I could expect to try sailing the boat backwards, so I thought I would give it a go. I furled away the Genoa, gybed the main sail so it was at least not trying to break anything. I then ran off on a beam reach on a starboard tack. I dumped the main sheet out so that the boom would fall to a beam reach and pulled in on the preventer line. I let loose the storm jib sheets and let that sail just flog on the bow. Taking the helm, I used the remaining boat speed to turn me up to the wind to stall out and put the wind across the port bow so that it would blow into the mainsail pushing me backwards. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have enough boat speed and stalled out before I could get the wind across the bow. Falling off again, I bared away to get my speed back and tried again. Success. Keeping the help secure in my hands I was able to sail the boat backwards with the wind 20 degrees off the port bow blowing directly into my pinned out main sail. Something that hadn't really occurred to me at the time was that I was now going backwards into 4-meter swell, so the waves started to break over the back of the boat and flood the cockpit.
It’s a good thing I shut the main hatch when I came out. I also had forgotten that I was standing around in my thermals with only my boots on to keep me dry. I realised this the minute a wave splashed into my boot and over my leg. Awkwardly I stood on the side of the boat and steered for a few hundred meters before turning the back of the boat to the starboard side allowing the main sail to fill with wind again from the right direction. I slowly started to sail off again on a beam reach. I bared away a touch to see if I could gauge that the kelp was free or not. It was hard to tell with only the one sail up but whilst it felt close I wasn’t sure, so I decided to go again just to be safe. I hadn’t seen any kelp float free and I really really didn’t want to drag it to Albany... The second time I was able to get 6 knots in reverse. The boat powered along, after about 500 meters I straightened my course and carried on. I re-set the storm jib and unfurled the genoa again. As soon as I was set with the sail I glanced at the instruments. I was doing 9 knots in 12 knots of wind, where before I was doing 6 knots in 12 knots of wind. Success the kelp was free to live its life drifting around the world’s oceans once again and I was free to start sailing fast again. Yes.
The rest of the afternoon the winds remained from the S to the SSE at 15 knots so I was making good progress. They have now moved to the SE and filled in a touch to 15-20 knots, so I have put in the first reef in the main sail and changed the jibs over so I am sailing with the stay sail. I am now on a wind angle of 50 degrees and will likely stay on this angle for the next day or so as my large easterly winds arrive in the morning. As the winds build I will be needed on deck so for now, I am going to get some rest. Good night all.