Sébastien Marsset manoeuvres on the forward deck during a day marked by a slight slowdown. Photos Yann Riou
CAP LEEUWIN TOMORROW NIGHT
“There is an all-pervasive grey, with rays of sunshine at times, and always a few birds accompanying the boat,” was how the message received from the boat this morning started. Wrapped up well for over a week against the harsh environment of the Deep South, the sailors are now acclimatised and paying more attention to the cold pinching their faces. Warm clothes, gloves and hats are evident, with the key stopping the icy wind that tries to whip in. But mentally, all attention is focused on an Indian Ocean that is not really roaring. The maxi-trimaran is heading towards the second legendary cape of a round-the-world sailing voyage, Cape Leeuwin, which marks the south-west tip of Australia and which it will reach by the end of the day on Thursday. The current weather system limits the choice of route, forcing the crew to manoeuvre to keep the power up and not to fall into a windless area that is moving due east ahead of the bows of the trimaran. Spindrift 2 will gradually climb to 45° South, following a trajectory parallel to its predecessor Banque Populaire V. The good news: the area of drift ice is well and truly behind their transom. The way is clear until the entrance into the Pacific Ocean off Tasmania.
Day 18 – 17h00 GMT
198 nm behind the current record holder
Distance covered from the start: 11,656 nm
Average speed over 24 hours: 21.6 knots
Distance over 24 hours: 517.4 nm
The Ice Age
The highlight of this third week has been the rounding of the Kerguelen archipelago which are in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The crew decided to sail north of the islands in order to avoid the drift ice located to their south. Although Spindrift 2 has lost a few miles over the last couple of days, it is mainly due to a zone of light winds ahead, moving at more than twenty knots.
The team is all set to reach Cape Leeuwin tomorrow (Thursday) evening, The second mythical cape on this round-the-world challenge will be quite a way north, as it marks the south-western tip of Australia, roughly 800 miles from the track of the great black and gold trimaran. It is more symbolic than a focal point as the Pacific Ocean only officially starts south of Tasmania, which is two days further on. The 200 miles separating Spindrift 2 from the current holder of the Jules Verne Trophy is not likely to change much over the next few days due to a weather system that limits the choice of course.
Dona Bertarelli, Yann Guichard and their crew of twelve have had no choice but to remain in a corridor of westerly winds between 49° and 52° South since their northern passage of the Kerguelen archipelago. Ahead of Spindrift 2, a zone with a weak pressure gradient is moving at practically the same speed as the boat. This means that the crew is constantly stuck in the same weather system and cannot expect to accelerate until a low from Madagascar kicks in and sweeps south of Australia on Thursday evening. After last night’s gybe, the big trimaran should be changing course this afternoon to follow a track parallel to her virtual predecessor. Thereafter, she will gradually sail up to the 45° parallel south to latch onto these strong new north-westerly winds in front of this tropical depression.
Between ice and shallow waters
The acceleration of the boat will be marked and lasting! Based on current forecasts, Spindrift 2 could make up the time lost to Banque Populaire V before entering the Pacific Ocean and even continue to benefit from the powerful north-west stream south of New Zealand, if not beyond.
The good news is that the area of drift ice that forced Yann Guichard and his crew to keep north of the southern archipelago is now behind them. The latest satellite images indicate that the icebergs are now concentrated below the Kerguelen islands (Indian Ocean), a long way south of New Zealand (Pacific Ocean) and between the Falklands and South Georgia islands (Atlantic Ocean). So, as it turns out, the detour to the north did not really slow Spindrift 2 down too much given the conditions at the time. Apart from the risk of colliding with a growler (a piece of ice weighing several tonnes), the sea state did not make it possible to sail fast on a southern course.
The way ahead of the giant trimaran’s bows is clear to Cape Horn at least, and Yann Guichard’s crew has free rein to make the most of favourable conditions from Friday before attacking the “real toughie” of this circumnavigation via the three capes next weekend, the Pacific Ocean!
Positions of the great icebergs in the Indian Ocean:
The CLS’s image taken on December 4th shows how the drift ice is concentrated south of the Kerguelen islands. The white path showing Spindrift 2’s course confirms the detour made to avoid any collision south of the archipelago, with the route at 52° South (below the drifting pack ice) not favourable at that time to reeling in the miles. The route ahead is now clear for Dona Bertarelli, Yann Guichard and their 12-strong crew all the way to the entrance of the Pacific Ocean, off Tasmania.
Distances covered in 24h (Spindrift 2 vs Banque Populaire V)
This graph showing the distances sailed daily since leaving Brest confirm that Spindrift 2 bettered the performance of the Jules Verne Trophy holder in the Atlantic. But there is a big difference with the northern passage of the Kerguelen islands, with Banque Populaire V having had highly favourable conditions in 2011, during which she produced her best daily performance ever at that time, clocking up 803 nautical miles. The tracks of both boats also show how the black and gold trimaran has covered a hundred or so miles more, having taken a more northerly course in this first half of her Indian Ocean crossing.
This is what we call a challenge : World Record of #JulesVerneTrophy !
WEATHER FORECAST - Jean-Yves BERNOT
The Indian Ocean has never deserved its nickname – “The tunnel” – so much.
Spindrift 2 continues on its way, stuck between southern depressions and a windless connecting area caused by the low-pressure system coming from Madagascar. They have a 20-25-knot westerly wind oscillating between WSW and WNW, and a 3-metre westerly swell.
In the medium term, the situation is quite frustrating: the boat is struggling with a ridge of high pressure between the southern depressions that we are coming up to, but are unable to cajole our way around or to force our way through (the two conventional methods for managing these ridges).
This is a stupid game: the boat is heading east at 35 knots, catching up the ridge of high pressure, which is moving at 20-25 knots and then slowing in the windless zone.
The ridge moves ahead and we pick up again. This situation is expected to last until south of Tasmania. In physics we talk about the "relaxation phenomenon”. This is not my state of mind right now...
MESSAGE FROM THE BOAT
With more than half of the Indian Ocean behind us, the scenery has not changed much since Spindrift 2’s upwind passage of the Kerguelen Islands. There is a dominance of grey, with rays of sunshine at times, and always a few birds in the wake of the boat. The water temperature has increased from 2°C to 5°C, which makes the days and especially the nights, much more bearable for those on watch. The watches keep coming like a well-oiled machine, like everything that happens on Spindrift 2: the sailing, general performance, but also the cooking, cleaning, and of course sleeping.
It is a rhythm that should be barely disturbed by a slowdown forecast this afternoon and into the night. The maxi-trimaran is expected to come up against a ridge of high pressure that is moving towards Australia at around 20 knots. The slowdown should not have a significant impact on the race against the record holder, Spindrift 2’s virtual competitor. Meanwhile, the milometer keeps ticking over on the maxi-trimaran, which is continuing to make some very respectable averages this morning.
Day 18 à 6h00 GMT
Position : 50.37.41’ S and 93.22.69 E
185,7 behind the record holder Banque Populaire V
Distance covered from the start: 11 384 nM
Distance traveled over 24 hours: 580 nM
Speed over 24 hours : 24,2 knts
Sails : Mainsail et Gennaker medium
Waves : 3 metres
TOMORROW ON CNN
SHIRLEY ROBERTSON'S MAINSAIL SHOW WITH DONA BERTARELLI
And as well Dame Ellen MacArthur, Loïck Peyron, Francis Joyon, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Brian Thomson.