By Brian Hancock
“I hear the train acomin’, it’s rolling around the bend,” wrote the late great Johnny Cash in his wonderful song Fulsom Prison Blues. I know that he was referring to a different kind of train but I have moved the Windy App forward on the Yellow Brick Tracker and the OGR fleet have a train coming right up from Antarctica. And it’s packing a punch and should make for an interesting weekend. Not like taking the Piccadilly line from Heathrow which, the last time I took it, was jammed and the body odour was intense, this one is coming in cold and loud and bringing its big brother to make sure that the job is done right. It’s time for the middle of the fleet to button down and buckle up.
The Line Honours leaders, Pen Duick VI and Translated 9, look like they might escape it but they will have their own birthday surprise waiting ahead, even though no one on board has a birthday. That’s yacht racing for you. There is some messy stuff (nautical term) in the vicinity of Cape Horn. They will get to meet it in five days or so by which time the mess may have gone off to bother someone else, but Cape Horn can be tricky and that’s why you get to wear the earring in your left ear once you have rounded it. By the way, I once got capsized right at Cape Horn (story for another day) and that was fine, but when it comes to needles, not so much. I really, really don’t like needles. So no earrings, and definitely no tattoos.
The fleet have had a fairly easy (relative) Southern Ocean crossing but now they are getting into lion territory. Now I speak from experience when I speak of lions being a small, scrawny kid from Africa. They can also be tricky (like Cape Horn) especially when they are hungry, but when they are full, they just need their bellies rubbed. Let’s hope that the sailors in the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race have their belly rubbing tools at hand. By the way I have had some experience with lions but let’s also save that for another day.
There is another waypoint ahead of them which they have to leave to starboard before taking the deep dive south to get around Cape Horn. The front two boats are around the waypoint already, but it’s the rest of the fleet that looks like a bowl of Fruit Loops (on the Tracker) as they try and get around it. And that’s Fruit Loops without milk. Just a cold splash of Southern Ocean water.
Sterna and Explorer are cooking along. The great Jeremy Bagshaw on Sterna is leading his team through some potholes. He’s actually good at navigating around potholes; he’s from South Africa after all. At last check they were averaging 7.4 knots (quite reasonable) and had covered just over 140 nautical miles in the last 24 hours. (also quite reasonable). Explorer was having a bit of a tougher time of it and were only averaging just over 6 knots and had done less than 100 miles in the last 24 hours, but we still love them. Their time will come.
The outlaws on Outlaw have taken a sharp left as have our friends on L’Esprit d’équipe (I feel that I don’t write about them enough and if I am to be honest, I can’t spell the name of their boat). Well I can and I could cut and paste it but their skipper Lionel Regnier have made a decisive move to get around the waypoint before they find themselves dealing with some northerly winds that are coming their way.
So it’s all good for the OGR fleet as they approach the TGIF end of the week. Although, speaking from a little experience, the days seem to blend together when you are at sea so today might feel like Sunday to some of them. Oh, by the way it’s Groundhog Day here in the US. Punxsutaweny Phil, a groundhog that lives in Pennsylvania, emerges from his double story, fully-framed log cabin home (or a hole in the frozen dirt) while the whole country waits with bated breath to see if he can see his shadow. It’s a big deal and there are bands and dancing girls and men wearing top hats. If he sees his shadow winter will carry on; indefinitely. If he doesn’t see his shadow winter will be over in 6 weeks. He did not see his shadow this morning so I guess that we are almost out of this deep freeze; if you trust a groundhog for your weather information.
To all the sailors in the OGR, shadow or no shadow, have a great weekend. Sail safe and sail fast.