2024 started a little more gently than 2023 had ended, with widespread milder conditions and a persistent high pressure zone in the area south of Cape Leeuwin as well as south east of Cape of Good Hope.
This was great news for Ari Känsäkoski who, after dismasting, is limping back to the safety of a port in Africa, most likely Durban. With the help of the fuel he was given by the Japanese fishing vessel Tomi Maru No.58 Ari has managed to motor north of the high pressure system and is now in light following winds, that will allow him to make good some of the mileage under jury rig alone as the total fuel onboard is not sufficient for the distance to be covered. He is currently 900 Nautical Miles from Durban which is a massive distance for a dismasted boat, but certainly getting below the 1000 Nautical Miles is a psychological milestone that surely helps. Let’s not forget that Ari is now on his 12th day at sea after dismasting and has covered just 600 Nautical Miles. However, what’s most important is that Ari has managed to get himself out of the area of influence of the Roaring Forties low pressure systems and constantly displaying a calm and collected attitude and incredible seamanship. He was between 41 and 42 degrees south at the time of the accident and the area he was in has seen several days of prohibitively strong winds, for a dismasted boat, in the past week, so his strategy to head north first was spot on.
The high pressure system south of Cape Leeuwin has significantly slowed down the group of boats currently busy clearing the ice limit south of the second of the three Great Capes. It’s worth pointing out that the rise in the Ice Limit to 45 degrees south in this region has little to do with drifting icebergs or ice pack. The reason why boats are forced to climb back north stems from an unwritten agreement with Australian rescue authorities that would incur in extremely high costs, difficult to publicly justify to the taxpayers, should they need to venture very deep south in remote waters to rescue a sailor involved in a voluntary “leisure activity”.
As we enter in the second week of the Austral summer, milder conditions can result in larger high pressure systems that can hamper progress in those areas where the skippers cannot dip south to find following winds. This may be the reason why on New Year’s day Pavlin Nadvorni enjoyed a balmy and sunny day away from the grim conditions the majority of the fleet had experienced just a week earlier. Looking at Pavlin’s route it is very interesting to note how his Farr designed Espresso Martini seems to be exceptionally better than Class40s in dealing with light downwind conditions. Whilst both Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus and Francois Gouin on Kawan3 Unicancer had to sail closer to the wind and zig-zag downwind to keep speed in light winds, Pavlin seems to be able to sail a much straighter course at similar or slightly slower speeds, but with a much better VMG.
Pavlin’s conservative sailing strategy has seen him often elect to stay away from the worst of some of the low pressure systems the fleet encountered, and inevitably, he was later left dealing with light wind ridges of high pressure in between the depressions. However, both when sailing in strong winds and when sailing in light winds Espresso Martini has sailed fewer miles for the same distance made good. In strong downwind conditions Pavlin has often resorted to using a poled out jib and in light downwind scenarios the Bulgarian skipper has made the most of the quick Farr designed hull which is certainly a lot less sticky in light airs than flat and wide Class40s.
Another skipper that has been deliberately avoiding strong winds and messy seas of the Roaring Forties is Andrea Mura of Vento di Sardegna. His 2000 designed Open 50, which participated in the Vendée Globe of that year, has later been optimised and made lighter. Vento di Sardegna is a boat that performs at its best in light and medium conditions but which is not at its optimum in heavy seas where light displacement becomes a source of additional risks especially in cross seas where breaking waves and sudden acceleration can lead to risky wipe outs and other potentially equipment-breaking accidents. Andrea has contoured the edge of the vast low pressure systems with centers in the Screaming Fifties and despite sailing inevitably a longer course he is confident that this is the best strategy for him and his boat, which he has now campaigned for over 15 years.
Louis Robein on Le Souffle de La Mer III, following issues with sheared bolts holding the base of his autopilot ram has confirmed the need to stop in Hobart for repairs and has gybed out of the worst of last week’s low which has swept over the fleet. In fact, to his southeast there must have been a collective sigh of relief for David Linger on Koloa Maoli, William MacBrien on Phoenix and Edouard de Keyser on Solarwind who spent a considerable time in very grim conditions. David posted a photo where he was enjoying some much deserved sunshine whilst even tending to some domestic chores such as some laundry.