By Brian Hancock
We have a thing here in town over Halloween called the Monster Mash. You know the song I’m sure. If not Google it. Well, let me be kind and say this as kindly as I can. Some of the yachts in the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race are in for a Monster Mash. There is some weather coming in and it might not be a pretty thing. In fact it might be pretty ugly.
White Shadow won’t be looking for their shadow, that much I can assure you of. It’s going to be dark and a little dusty as they get ready for a dusting-up as a massive low is approaching from the west. It’s packing a bit of a punch but the tricky thing about this one is that there is room to run, but nowhere to hide. It’s going to clobber most of the boats. Having said that, the nasty little one that was stalking Sterna and Explorer didn’t amount more than a damp fa*t. With the Southern Ocean you never know. She is the mistress of her domain, kind of like that lady I met in Paris who insisted on getting paid afterwards. I really thought that she liked me.
Moving forward. Pen Duick VI skippered by the ever talented Marie Tabarly is still dithering (nautical term) trying to figure out a mixed bag of worms (also a nautical term). The weather is strange. To their south Translated 9 is looking at an uncertain future. So is Maiden and Spirit of Helsinki. In a few days if that massive low continues its journey eastwards (probably Christmas shopping) they may look back on the relatively light winds as a fun day walking in the park. Weather models show this low coming in with a kick; much like my one girlfriend who was not happy with me on her couch for a month and kicked me out.
Speaking of which, back to Australia. This will be a multi-part series. Australia is, after-all, a big country. After the celebrations in Fremantle ended, after we won the Parmelia Race (sorry Rolly Tasker) I thought (with the mind of a 10 year old) that it might be a good idea to hitch-hike to Sydney. I had some connections there and was looking to hook up a ride in the Sydney/Hobart race. What I didn’t look at was a map. It’s further from Fremantle to Sydney than it is from New York to San Francisco. In other words it’s a bloody long way and most of it across the Nullabor Plain (AKA a desert). I did OK with my first ride, but he had other business to deal with and left me on the side of the road in the blazing heat. Then, lucky me, along came a red sports car (top down) with a stunning blond driving. I spent the next two hours trying to look down her blouse. I had noticed that she was not wearing a bra, and it passed the time quite quickly. More tomorrow.
But I digressed (again). Most of the boats are around the 45 degree south waypoint, well except White Shadow and Sterna and Explorer. The latter two, Explorer especially, are wobbling a bit. They have good sailing conditions but to be honest, and I have to be because I am writing this, to be honest the Southern Ocean is not dishing up the usual kind of conditions that were advertised in the brochure. They should be roaring through the Roaring Forties, but the weather is just not settled. There are small high pressure zones where there should be low pressure systems and vice-versa. Or maybe it’s just when I did all those races in the past without the fancy weather information you can get these days, we just took it for granted. Remember the fleet can’t get fancy weather.
Another funny story, if you will indulge me. I raced the ‘89/90 Whitbread on Fazisi, the first, and by happenstance last Soviet Union entry in the race (long story) and if I have already told this before, please forgive me (old age kicking in). Back then satellite weather was just starting to become a thing but we could not afford it so we did, what most mariners over the centuries did, we looked out the window to see what was coming our way. By doing so we managed to go from dead last to 5th by hooking onto some squalls. We were close to the doldrums at the time and were thrilled. We called our race headquarters in Moscow. “We are in fifth place,” we said, expecting some excitement from their end. The response that we got. “Russian TV have been reporting you in first place since the race started.” Mike drop.
That’s the life of an around the world sailor.