Low pressure and high stress as KINGFISHER2 prepares to be hammered by a big depression bearing down on them, position well, gain miles, save the boat - position badly, and you are forced to slow the boat to save her from damage.
Ellen and the team cross the Greenwich meridian yesterday evening - and are now counting up the degrees east of longitude as they head towards the south-east tip of Australia and New Zealand, thousands of miles away, where in between they will cross back into the west and will have completed half the journey.
ELLEN LATEST LOG:
As I sit here typing we are once again racing along in KINGFISHER2. I glance up at the speed over ground - and we're at over 30 knots. We've been playing the escapee this morning as we power along ahead of the cold front of the approaching low. The objective has been to sail along fast enough to stay before it - and fast we have been. Our boat speed has been averaging 26 knots for hours. This time, though the wind is our opponent, and the waves our ally. We are luckily hosing down the waves, which though large are less aggressive than those of 48 hours ago.
It's been a busy few days really, with a mix of repairs, weather decisions and numerous manoeuvres on deck. On what was probably the darkest of nights, all our wind instruments failed. Starting with a small error, which transpired into a complete failure. It took 12 hours to fix, following each wire to each sensor. I played with settings, replaced the circuit boards - then eventually I discovered the problem existed in the connection system under the mast. Unfortunately, all the wiring connections are in a tiny compartment inside the main beam. There was a small hole, which I was able to climb through - then a space just big enough for me to fit my shoulders in. I went in to do what I thought might have been 20 minutes soldering - but extracted myself from the hole after just 2 hours! The hardest part was getting tiny 4 strand electrical wires into a connection box as we pounded along... Each time a wave came up and hit the underside of the beam, a jet of water squirted up through the drain holes beneath me, and the only way I could communicate with the guys was by radio as it was far too rough to hear anyone's voice. KINGFISHER2 may only be 60 feet wide, but 60 feet is a long way to shout in 40 knots of wind - and when you're hidden in a small hole you have no chance...
The weather looks okay for the next few days - the low beneath us should slow, and then allow us to sail lower down towards the SE. It's time to get south now, where it will get colder - but where we will sail a shorter distance. The place where even a damp sleeping bag feels as close to heaven as you could possibly imagine - and the four hours on deck seem like a lifetime - as you try to keep warm. Life is different here in the southern ocean, very different. And it's only just beginning...
SUMMARY: 0700 GMT 17.2.03 (position taken at 07:12)
Position: 38 38'S 07 06'E
Ahead/Behind the record: 9 hours 39 minutes behind Orange (using WP5)
Ahead/Behind Geronimo: 64 hours 51 minutes behind Geronimo (using WP6)
DAY 18 24-hour run (point to point): Kingfisher2 547 nm, Orange 530 nm, Geronimo 366 nm
End DAY 18 distance to go (on theoretical course): KF2 18089 nm, Orange 17934 nm, Geronimo 17051 nm
Boat speed: 19 knots
Distance to WP5 42 00'S / 18 28'E 490nm south of Cape of Good Hope: 558 nm (theoretical shortest distance)