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21 February 2005, 02:36 pm
Approaching the Furious Fifties
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Oryx Quest 2005

What a difference a few days makes. Less than four days ago the Oryx Quest 2005 yachts were sailing upwind in boat break conditions. They were still in the trade winds of the Indian Ocean in blazing sun with shade at a premium. Now all the boats, with the exception of Geronimo, are in the deep south pounding downwind at breakneck speeds.
For the last 72 hours the speed on Doha 2006 has not dropped below 22 knots as the Qatari catamaran dives deeper into more hostile territory. It's sailboat racing at its finest and it's going to remain this way for another 6,000 miles until the first boat reaches Cape Horn. At the 07:00 GMT poll on Monday morning Doha 2006 was sailing at 27 knots. They are about to hit the Furious Fifties where life on board becomes a constant battle just to stand upright say nothing of trying to eat and sleep. On board Doha 2006 skipper Brian THOMPSON describes life on board in his daily log.

'We are still hammering along heading south east towards the colder latitudes and the shortest route to Cape Horn. The water temperature is down to 8 degrees and dropping together with the barometer and the layers of cloud. Last night was particularly squally with every hour a 40 knot plus squall sandwiching the 25 knots of constant wind. We were down to 2 reefs and storm jib as we were reaching. Right now the wind is shifting slowly behind us and the sail area is increasing. In a few hours we will be gybing and heading east on port gybe. This will be one of those difficult transitions where the windshift is changing our course so that we will be heading more into the waves - with a potential for damage, yet we will want to carry on as long as possible on this current starboard gybe for tactical reasons.' The poll data shows that Doha 2006 has gybed and is sailing parallel to 50 degrees south just a few miles north of the line that marks a change from the Roaring Forties to a region where the wind literally screams through the rigging.

Four degree to the north Cheyenne is also enjoying similar conditions as they rocket ever deeper into the Souhern Ocean. Cheyenne is matching speed with Doha 2006 although at times their speed has dropped below 22 knots. At the 07:00 GMT poll Cheyenne was sailing at 20.79 knots with Daedalus a further three degree to the north sailing at 21.7 knots. On board Cheyenne Dr. Claire BAILEY has her work cut out for her, not only sailing the boat, but treating the crew as well. Her latest log reveals an interesting case of bursitis found on the elbow of the navigator Wouter VERBAAK. 'Wouter complained of a sore elbow in the last few days,' she wrote. 'He finally managed to strip enough layers of clothing off to expose the affected area. Sure enough there was a classic case of navigators elbow. He tried to spin us all a yarn that he had been doing too much grinding, but in fact he has been doing too much leaning on his elbow's at his nav station. He has a condition called bursitis of the elbow. This is when the small bag of fluid from the elbow joint becomes bigger and inflamed and appears red and swollen. He probably got this from leaning on his elbows too much wondering which route to take! Luckily he has a straightforward case which can be treated on board with anti inflammatories and antibiotics if needed. I have taken a permanent marker pen to the elbow to mark out the area of infection and will check it again in the next few hours to see if the area of redness has spread and treat it accordingly.' Claire finished her log with a comment shared by many of the on-deck crew. 'This episode proves that navigators need to get out more!'

It does not appear that the boats are going to get any relief from the relentless sailing for the at least next 48 hours. A moderately strong low is located 10 degrees south and slightly west of the boats. It's on a fast track to the east and! will pass under the fleet during the day today bringing north! westerly winds that will slingshot the boats under Australia. Doha 2006 has passed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia, the first of the five great capes that the boats will pass during their race around the world. Although Brian Thompson and his crew have a comfortable lead, they know that it can evaporate in an instant should the wind go light. 'There are some tricky and light conditions coming up for New Zealand,' Thompson wrote in his log. 'They could bring the fleet together again. There is no clear picture yet of what is going to happen. Could be a lottery. Hopefully a route will open up before we arrive.'

Olivier de KERSAUSON and his crew on Geronimo are 300 miles west of Fremantle where they will stop for repairs to the starboard beam. At the 07:00 poll the Capgemini/Schneider Electric trimaran was sailing at a conservative 18.5 knots. They are expected to reach land sometime Monday night and will start the repair immediately. Their race is far from over.

Brian Hancock (As Amended by ISAF)
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