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Day 166

By Brian Hancock

Great news. The South African team on Sterna are now safely stern-to in Punta del Este. They came in this morning just as day was breaking and both boat and crew looked spectacular. The crew looked fresh and, surprisingly (for South Africans) they were clean. Guess that their watermaker worked very well and when it didn’t, they repaired it. Congratulations to the great Jeremy Bagshaw and his team on a wonderful passage from Auckland to Uruguay.

Their lines were barely ashore when it was time to go out and greet the Explorers on Explorer. They came in rocking and rolling (literally) with a sloppy sea and a fairly light wind directly from behind. “Sailing by the lee” is what it’s called and the headsail was flopping from side to side until they rounded a turning mark close to the finish and turned to starboard. That was when the boat came alive and with a bone in her teeth they crossed that magical line and wrote Leg 3 into their history book. Explorer was the last of the boats racing to get into Punta which is a relief and a major accomplishment. Captain Coconut could not wipe the smile off his face and rightly so. With the challenge of the Southern Ocean squarely in the rear view mirror they can start to focus on Leg 4, which in my experience can also be brutal. There is the heat and calms of doldrums to contend with, but there can also be gale force winds in the Bay of Biscay. Meanwhile Translated 9 is making good tracks toward Punta. They covered 217 nautical miles in the last 24 hours, a pretty decent day at the office.

Nando Parrado and I swapped some stories. His were about growing up in Uruguay and mine about growing up in South Africa. Our stories were quite similar. We watched the sun set over the Rio de la Plata. Nando said, “I have to get going but would you like to come horse riding with me tomorrow?” Now there is an offer that you don’t get too often. The answer was a definite yes. We were on a break from the boat and for the next few days Nando and me enjoyed riding along one of Uruguay’s most beautiful beaches. We would stop at a small shack of a place and get some lunch; fish tacos mostly but then one day Nando ordered a steak. Now remember that the survivors of the crash had eaten the meat of the dead so I was a little taken aback. I thought that I would have become vegan after that experience. Nando gave me a look that said, “in Uruguay we love our beef.” He then added, “if something like that happens to you don’t hesitate to eat the dead. Especially if there are still other supplies to supplement the flesh. Those that held out until the very end got really ill from protein poisoning.” That’s advice that can be passed around.

When the plane crashed into the side of the mountain in the middle of winter, the survivors had no idea where they were.

There was some sorties to try and establish where they might be and they were about to give up and face their fate, but Nando and one of the other survivors had one last go. It was brutal because of the cold (and weakness) but they traversed a mountain and walked down the other side. Their lives and the lives of the rest were hanging in the balance, but luck beyond luck they saw some green ahead of them, and a farmer. They had not been far from civilization all this time. They organised a rescue team and all of the survivors made it home safely, including the son of that famous Uruguayan artist who was also on board the plane when it crashed. So you just never know who you are going to meet when you race a sailboat around the world.

Bubbles up to all of the sailors safely tied to the dock in Punta and for the determined crew on Translated 9. Sail safe.

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