'386 miles to go to the Horn, and I tell you we are counting down every single mile.' BEKKING writes as he describes the conditions in his report. 'The last 24 hours we got the 'sh*t' kicked out of us. Real SOUTHERN OCEAN, freezing cold, big winds (40 knots), snow showers and huge seas. Fascinating in a way, that our little nutshell doesn't care about this and is doing it's job so well, but in the wrong hands it can go terribly wrong. Sorry for the girls reading this, but I am actually happy that there isn't a female crew for this race; they would have struggled tremendously.'
'So back to us, the last miles in the Southern Ocean and Neptune had a nasty surprise package in mind for us, in the form of front passing us. One moment we are 'cruising' doing steady 18-20 knots of boat speed, and than it changed within seconds. We knew that the front was arriving, so the boys on deck were on standby to put reefs in the mainsail, but as always the arrival of the front came very suddenly.'
'Winds picked up in seconds from 20 to 40 knots: Here's the inside scenario: The watch captain shouts: GET THE REEF IN, the crew starts moving smoothly around in the pitch dark night to their positions and I take over the helm, heart rate probably close to 190, and it flashes through my mind, just relax, keep her on her feet, you have done this a thousand times before., but still... The boat speed increases dramatically, we are nearly flying over the waves, doing over 30 knots of boat speed, and the wind is still increasing.'
'I shout: GO STRAIGHT TO SECOND REEF. Suddenly a big loud BANG, 'sh*t' what's that? The answer comes instantly as the reacher jib, starts flogging like a maniac. The guys asleep downstairs are now up and jumping in their foulies. You don't have to call them, they know we have a bit on. What is the priority in such a situation, first finish reefing the mainsail, the sail we use 24 hours a day, and can't do without. But now the snowball effect starts really rolling. The reefs are nearly in, as all of sudden the second reef line comes undone. OH NO, GO TO THE THIRD REEF!!!! In the mean time the wind has changed nearly 80 degrees in direction, so we are crashing into the old wave pattern, and getting douched constantly, the boat making heavy slamming noises.'
'The boys are transferring as quickly as possible to the third reefline, as Mikey shouts out: THE REACHER HAS SHREDDED ITSELF. After the reefs are in, eight guys make their way to the front and struggle on the foredeck to get the jib down. I am trying as hard as possible not to send the boat into the waves but several times they all disappear under water, good to know they are all clipped on. Finally the sail is down and they drag it back, and put it downstairs through the hatch. This sail might be good for building Gucci handbags!!!!'
'Next we have to jibe, as we are 90 degrees off course, not easy in so much wind, but it helps hugely that we can cant the keel from side to side on this boat. I am waiting for the big surf and start turning the boat, winches run, and the shout comes: RUNNER MADE, the old runner gets eased as well the mainsheet. Who said 'difficult'? Piece of cake...'
'From then on we clean up the cockpit and hoist the storm jib for the first time on the trip, quickly followed by a staysail, as the wind doesn't rise any longer. CAPE HORN , HERE WE COME!!!! This was only a brief moment of our normal office day.'