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21 December 2002, 12:39 pm
The Southern Ocean
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The Southern Ocean

Around Alone - Leg Three
Cape Town (RSA) - Tauranga (NZL)

With the exception of John Dennis on Bayer Ascensia, all the Around Alone yachts are in the Southern Ocean, or the Great Southern Highway as many sailors refer to the region.
With the exception of John Dennis on Bayer Ascensia, all the Around Alone yachts are in the Southern Ocean, or the Great Southern Highway as many sailors refer to the region.

It's a unique part of the world made more so by legend and the many disasters that have taken place in that part of the world. It's a place where hero's are born and where much of the drama of the Around Alone gets written.

Eight years ago some of the most dramatic sailing was recorded in this very part of the Southern Ocean where the sailors are now racing. Isabelle Autissier, the crack French solo sailor led the Around Alone fleet into Cape Town, and had a comfortable lead of 5 days going into Leg 2. (The course was different back then; Leg 1 was from Charleston, SC to Cape Town, and Leg 2 went on to Sydney, Australia). When Isabelle left South Africa she knew that her main goal was to keep her boat together and to sail a smart, conservative race. If she did she would have the race in her pocket, but it was not to be. Disaster struck. Her mast came crashing down bringing with it the hopes and dreams of the skipper. Back then the race was contested on time, rather than points, and a dismasting would cause a major delay in time. Autissier radioed race operations who immediately diverted fellow competitor David Adams to her position to see if he could help. Adams and Autissier were good friends having sailed together in previous years, and David barely hesitated when he was asked to divert. He was currently leading Class 2 aboard his Open 50 True Blue. "I came up on Isa in the middle of the night," he wrote. "I could see the boat rolling around in the dark and Isabelle on deck securing what was left of her mast. It was such a pitiful sight. Here was this great women who had the race almost won, and now she was dealing with a dismasting. We exchanged a few words, but there was little I could do to help. Isabelle was determined to erect a jury rig and carry on racing, so I left her to it. It was just a grotty sight to see her disappear into the darkness with her little boat rolling around in the big seas."

The dismasting was not the end of Autissier's problems. She did indeed rig a makeshift mast and carry on racing. She stopped in the Kerguelen Islands where she managed to get an aluminum mast from a cruising boat modified to fit her racing machine, and with it she reentered the race, but an even greater disaster lay ahead. Once this Around Alone fleet enters that area where Isabelle's race came to an end, I will recount that story, but for now let's return to the current race.

The Southern Ocean is not all about gale force winds and huge waves. Some sailors who have been there would have you believe that it's a constant maelstrom where they are constantly fighting for their survival. When the low pressure systems come over the fleet it can get very nasty, especially if it is an intense low, however between the systems the sailing is quite pleasant. A moderate 20 - 25 knots of wind blows from behind and the sailors can enjoy the experience. There are three huge things to enjoy about the Southern Ocean; the light, the southern lights and the wildlife. The silver-gray light of the deep south is like no other place on earth. The gray ocean and gray skies become monotonous, but when the sun forces its way through the clouds, it brings with it incredible coloring that turns the waves a bright silver, the wave crests a brilliant white, and the sky a deep charcoal. Occasionally when the skies clear and the night is clear, the Southern Lights paint the sky with huge brushes of green and yellow. For a sailor alone on a yacht, to gaze up at the heavens and watch the light show is to experience heaven on earth. And when there is nothing else going on, one of the most pleasant things to do is to sit and watch the magnificent wandering albatross cruise slowly by the boat. These birds have a wingspan of over 10 feet, and they glide effortlessly riding the updrafts on the front of the waves, and dipping into the troughs behind with their wingtips barely inches above the water. Some say the albatross are the souls of sailors lost at sea, and I believe it. There is something so hauntingly beautiful about these amazing creatures.

Positions at 0600 GMT, 21/12/02

Class One

Position Yacht Lat Long SOG DTF DTL 24h Run
1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux -49.4 54.6 16 5428 290
2 Solidaires -46.7 53.6 14 5468.8 40.8 299.9
3 Hexagon -48.2 49.6 10 5623.8 195.7 298.5
4 Pindar -47.9 48.1 10.6 5685.4 257.3 268.1
5 Tiscali -46.6 47.9 9 5701.4 273.4 256.8
6 Ocean Planet -43.4 48.5 14.8 5727.5 299.5 247.7

Class Two

Position Yacht Lat Long SOG DTF DTL 24h Run
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America -44.3 46.7 14 5786.5 261.7
2 Spirit of Canada -44.1 40.2 NaN 6055.1 268.6 226.3
3 Spirit of yukoh -42.6 38.2 11.4 6168.1 381.6 190.7
4 Everest Horizontal -45.3 36.8 NaN 6168.6 382 235.5
5 BTC Velocity -42.5 36.8 10.6 6228.5 442 193.5
6 Bayer Ascensia -38.3 24.1 2.5 6857.3 1070.8 148.5
Brian Hancock/ISAF News Editor
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