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OUTSIDE TELEVISION BLOG

Welcome to my newly minted Outside TV blog, one dedicated to an unusual element of Outside pursuits. My fellow bloggers here all live exciting lives and bring back fantastic stories from their expeditions up, over and around terra firma. I am going to be taking a different tack, and will be telling you about my pursuit of Cape Horn and a racing circumnavigation of the globe, powered by the wind.

I was born into this gig, as my mother met my father when he was halfway through sailing around the world, a dream that I have subsequently adopted as my own. I spent my first year at sea, shaky first steps not made easier by the rocking of the boat! Later, growing up in New Zealand the blurred face and scratchy voice of Sir Peter Blake battling storms in the Southern Ocean left an indellible mark on me and sent me on a path to where I am now.

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What a week of contrasts… Going from resetting the GOR speed record to drifting aimlessly in the fog on a mill pond ocean. Musically we’ve gone from intensity of the “Flight of the Bumble Bee” to “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” played on a bass tuba, by a valium addict. Not the most inspiring stuff.

What a week of contrasts… Going from resetting the GOR speed record to drifting aimlessly in the fog on a mill pond ocean. Musically we’ve gone from intensity of the “Flight of the Bumble Bee” to “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” played on a bass tuba, by a valium addict. Not the most inspiring stuff.

Sadly our prize for being in the lead has been to have it halved, as we were the first to the light winds but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be the first out. The GRIB files that contain our forecasts have been changing fundamentally every 12 hours, with neither the old or the new forecast looking anything remotely like what we’re actually experiencing! Our only hope is that the wedge shaped ridge extending down from Tasmania holds in place and allows us to pass through the narrow part while leaving the thick end for the boys on BSL. For the moment however they appear to be Teflon Kiwis, carrying on through forecasted calms as if they’ve got an open tab at the Wind Bar.

Surrounded as we are by a drenching fog that blankets sun and the wind, life continues apace on shore. My girlfriend arrives in New Zealand on the 28th and, perhaps optimistically, we’ve booked Sam on a flight back to London on the 30th so he can go see his girlfriend for New Years. Two solid dates in the diary that are not to be missed, so we’re still pushing hard to get in in time, and to get there first!

Accordion
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For days now we’ve been stalked by a monster of a front that has been whirling through the GOR fleet as a ball of spiky red wind barbs. With the system on final approach, Sam and I decided to go for broke to consolidate our lead over the Fields. We ran deep through puffy 45+ knot squalls and positioned ourselves in the path of the beast.

For days now we’ve been stalked by a monster of a front that has been whirling through the GOR fleet as a ball of spiky red wind barbs. With the system on final approach, Sam and I decided to go for broke to consolidate our lead over the Fields. We ran deep through puffy 45+ knot squalls and positioned ourselves in the path of the beast. It might not be evident that sustained 35kts was an opportunity to attack, but we figured that if we could keep our foot on the loud pedal and stay ahead of the worst of it, then we could play the edge of the front and skim off as much wind as we wanted We still kept the door open to bail out to the north if things got too frisky.

As the wind built this morning we changed down from our A6 spinnaker made for VMG running in heavy conditions to the Code 5 fractional gennaker. Its also called a chicken chute, so what better for playing chicken with southern ocean front?! The sky stayed blue and the white caps sparkled, before being blown into the air as the wind built and stayed at 35 kts. We were fully pressed but still able to maintain control at 120-130 true wind angle and played the waves to surf for extra speed. Sam and I both saw 26kts of boat speed on the dial, and it always shows less than the GPS….

I found that the best way through the waves was not to surf down the face like normal but to carve down the troughs, at an angle to the waves so as to find the longest patch of smooth water as possible. I likened it to snowboarding down a half pipe, trying to get as lengthways as possible rather than criss crossing from lip to lip.

However, it was not all easy going. Halvard’s ruminations on the force presented by a mass of water brought home personally. We graduated up from the droplet- bricks of spray of previous days to walls of water rushing down the decks. After one altercation with a wave I was bodily picked up and deposited, spread eagled on my back on top of the life raft, two meters from where I had been helming. I was able to regain control but it was an eye opening experience and a warning taken to heart. As proof that sometimes the great lessons in life need to learned twice, Sam was later pushed off the helm and thrown into the sail stack on the back of the boat.

Given the water play I wasn’t too sad that we eventually out ran the stronger pressure and the wind dropped to a more sedate mid 20s. This wild ride will be just a memory in a couple of days as we are approaching a well established anticyclone in the Tasman Sea, and a tricky call as to which coast of the South Island to take to get to Wellington. Wish us well on the Cessna Citation flying boat.

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