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Pen Duick VI or Translated 9? Too hard to call

Galiana WithSecure at 16.5 knots, clearly very eager to get into Auckland for Christmas. Currently 3rd in IRC. Credit: OGR2023 / Galiana WithSecure

McIntyre OGR – still fighting after 6,000 miles of Southern Ocean Racing

Hours Separate Leaders In Nail-Biting Finish toward Auckland

  • Five days out – too close to call for line honours – hours separate Translated 9 IT (09) and Pen Duick VI FR (14) under 1,000 miles to go. Different routes, different tactics, same finish line. Who will triumph?  
  • ETA FIRST YACHTS INTO AUCKLAND – Early 13th December.
  • Translated 9 first in IRC, line honours and Flyer Class. Triana FR (66) holding 2nd IRC just 22 hours behind and leading Adventure Class. 
  • Code Red? Another FALSE EPIRB ALERT.
  • Explorer AU (28) and Sterna SA (42) face 50-knot winds in a storm gusting 80 knots.
  • Sterna breaks steering cable proceeding under bare poles and emergency tiller in 50 knots. 
Keeping a watchful eye on 1st spot on Translated 9. One slip and all could change. Credit: OGR2023 / Translated9

If there was ever an appropriate time to roll out the clichés ‘nail-biting finish’, ‘too close to call’, and ‘down to the wire’ it’s now. 6,500 miles out from Cape Town , with under 1,000 miles to the finish, the final days of Leg 2 of the Ocean Globe Race are proving every bit as enthralling as the original Whitbreads that raced into Auckland. At the time of writing, laying bets on who’ll take line honours would be brave, or foolhardy, but they are expected sometime on 13th January. 

The sailors racing in the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race, a retro race celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread, signed up for life changing adventures with close racing and that’s exactly what they’re getting.  

In line honours ranking, the Italian Swan 65 Translated 9 IT (09) is leading the French 73-foot ketch, Pen Duick VI FR (14), by just 75 miles. But it’s not as simple as that. A few eyebrows were raised when skipper Marie Tabarly and her Pen Duick VI crew sailed north approaching Australia, so north in fact, they sailed through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia. A risky tactic, many questioned, but it might well pay off yet. The next few days will reveal whether the Pen Duick VI choice was a stroke of genius, or they were merely left with no option, thanks to the winds pushing them north at the time. Either way, it will make for some very interesting post-race pontoon debates.

Translated 9 IT (09) opted for the more traditional route, keeping Tasmania well to port. Both are now facing similar wind shifts and challenges ahead with Cape Reinga notorious for producing some surprises for the yachts as they round the North Island. Leg 1 line honours winners Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) are sitting in third, some sixteen hours behind Pen Duick VI. Having previously wiped out stanchions in heavy weather they damaged their pushpit in big waves a few days ago. The stunning Swan 651, skippered by the determined Jussi Paavoseppä should certainly not be written off yet for line honours once again. 

Again, at the time of writing Triana FR (66) is just 12 nm north of L’esprit d’équipe FR (85). Evrika FR (07) a mere 14nm north of Outlaw AU (08). If they squinted and concentrated really hard, they could almost see each other. No doubt there is some very interesting radio chat going on. 

Things get even more interesting, if that’s possible, with the IRC rankings.

Clearly, all hands on deck is taken literally onboard Spirit of Helsinki. Credit: OGR2023 / Spirit of Helsinki / Tommi Uksila

Translated 9 hold a day lead on Triana, a Swan 53, skippered by Jean d’Arthuys. Triana continues to stun many with their consistent speeds against far bigger yachts. The popular Swan 55 Finnish yacht, Galiana WithSecure FI (06), the oldest in the fleet at 53 years, and skippered by Golden Globe Race sailor Tapio Lehtinen, is sitting in 3rd place. He has taken a detour to sail along the spectacular south coast of Tasmania to rekindle fond memories of doing the same in the 2018 Golden Globe Race. The time between the next four yachts Maiden UK (03), Evrika FR (07), Pen Duick VI and Spirit of Helsinki is just 19 hours. Likewise, Outlaw, L’Esprit d’équipe FR (85) and Neptune FR (56) are all within a hairs-breath of each other – and all have sailed into Auckland in previous Whitbread races.

Feeling the cold onboard Triana is clearly a motivation to get to Auckland quickly. Credit: OGR2023 / Triana

While the iconic OGR yachts have had what some may consider an easy ride through the notorious Southern Ocean, with a distinct lack of intense low pressure systems, it has produced a tightly packed finish. One mistake could separate the yachts. A distracted helmsman, a rouge wave, bad spinnaker wrap, blown sails, unpredictable currents or those unexpected squalls could cost them their ranking. Tension is running high in the fleet – honour, and not just line honours, is up for grabs. 

Spanish entrants White Shadow ESP (17) skippered by the ever-cheerful Frenchman Jean-Christophe Petit are five days behind the rest of the fleet but with decent winds they are predicted to sail into Auckland well in time for the festive season and the Tātaki Auckland Unlimited welcome party on December 23rd. 

Explorer’s Juliette Bousquet keeping a watchful eye on the incoming storm. Credit: OGR2023 / Explorer

That is not the case for the South African entrant Sterna SA (42) or Australian Swan 57 Explorer AU (28) bringing up the rear and just 100 miles apart. Both had to return to South Africa after the race start on November 5th to complete essential repair work, disqualifying them from the Leg 2 rankings. They then faced heavy winds forcing both to divert south to avoid a potentially hazardous storm, the biggest seen in the fleet. Now it appears they have more serious winds ahead in another storm not experienced by the rest of the fleet. A storm with wind gusts of up to 80 knots and 6-8 metre seas is bearing down on them as we write. OGR has provided weather alerts – standard procedure if forecast winds increase over 35 knots. Sterna and Explorer have over 5,500 miles to sail to Auckland and are predicted to arrive just before the start of Leg 2 on January 14th. So it’s Christmas at sea for those sailors.

UPDATE – Just as going to press at 1300 UTC 7th December, Sterna called OGR control to report a BROKEN STEERING CABLE and now proceeding under bare poles with emergency tiller in 50 knot south westerly winds and 5 metre seas. They are unable to effect a repair by replacing the cable while the emergency tiller is in place. They reported no injuries onboard and minor damage to sails and requested NO assistance. They confirmed weather conditions as predicted in the update provided by OGR and expect to effect repairs once the wind decreases in about 24 hours.

On Wednesday, the crew of Maiden lost their float-free EPIRB overboard, washed off the back of the boat by a large wave. It took the whole mounting with it. They immediately sent a satellite message to OGR control at 06:25 hrs to advise that all was ok, but not on the correct emergency contact numbers, so this message was not picked up. Four hours later, MRCC Australia contacted OGR to advise of the EPIRB activation just eight minutes before. OGR immediately went CODE RED and within a few minutes discovered the message from Maiden and was able to immediately cancel the distress alert. The interesting issue was that the EPIRB DID NOT ACTIVATE as soon as it hit the water. A full investigation of the incident will be carried out in Auckland.

Maiden used their weekly SoundCloud call to reveal the top topic of conversation on board on Leg 3. These include food, global domination, karaoke songs, flying fish, and would sing, Abba, and how appalling it is that 120 million girls don’t have access to an education in 2023. 

It’s interesting to note they are also using food as a temperature gauge. 

“We are using how spreadable the Nutella is to measure temperature. it is officially time to remove a layer” tweeted Maiden. A twist on the old sailor sailing of ‘sailing south til the butter melts’. 

Outlaw skipper, Australian Campbell Mackie might well have been feeling a little homesick as they sailed past South Australia, his home city. Having not been home to Adelaide since March, he admitted he was looking forward to flying back from Auckland for Christmas. They’d considered diverting to Hobart, Australia, as they were running so low on gas, suspecting their bottles weren’t fully refilled in Cape Town, but decided to carry on to Auckland. They’ve started on their Advent calendar to get them into the Christmas spirit.  

The crew of White Shadow are also feeling for their loved ones.

31 days today in total isolation from shore without news. Conscious to live an experience of a lifetime. Paying a high token. Missing deeply beloved ones.

White Shadow
Independence Day of Finland is celebrated with flag, songs, Vorschmack, Jallu, cinnamon rolls baked by Kaisla and Sibelius Symphony No1 & Violin Concerto. Credit: OGR2023 / Galiana WithSecure

Never one to pass up the opportunity for a party and a singsong is Galiana WithSecure who celebrated Finnish Independence Day in style.

Independence day started by hoisting the flag and singing together the flag song and national anthem. Ville continued with Finlandia hymn.

Galiana WithSecure
It’s all famiy and friends onboard Evrika clearly enjoying their Southern Ocean experience. Credit: OGR2023 / Evrika

Earlier in the week three Finnish-built yachts were sailing within seven miles of each other as far as possible from where they were constructed on the other side of the world. Galiana WithSecure (Swan 55 Yawl), Outlaw (Baltic 55) and Evrika (Swan 65) – all racing against, but still very much with each other. 

The Classic Ted Ashby sailing under Harbour Bridge. Tickets are available for Ted Ashby on race start (see link below). Credit: New Zealand Maritime Museum / Todd Eyre Photography Ltd

Tactics are going to play a major role in the final rankings and racing into Auckland can be tricky. Colin Lucas, race officer at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron where the finish line is positioned, explains some of the complexities. He has said sailing into Auckland can be ‘interesting’.

There are two major harbours, the Manukau and Waitemata within 10 kilometers of each other. That means the weather is changeable and you can experience four seasons in a day or if you’re lucky, an hour.  

The predominant wind gradient is from the southwest, although in the summer north-easterly sea breezes come into play. From time-to-time each harbour generates its own sea breeze, the Manukau Harbour from the southwest and the Waitemata Harbour from the northeast. Between the two sea breezes, there is a convergence zone where there’s no wind. When the convergence zone is within the Waitemata there can be a northeasterly at one end of the harbour, a five-hundred-metre gap and a south westerly at the other.

Colin Lucas, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

The OGR yachts will be in Wynyard Marina from arrivals in December until Start Day on January 14th. The OGR race office will be located in The Kiosk, Jellicoe Harbour at Wynyard Quarter, Wynyard Marina from December 11th.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread the OGR is hosting a Whitbread Reunion on January 11th, 6pm – 8pm, in Auckland. All Whitbread and Volvo Race veterans are invited but need to register with OGR.

For more information contact jac@oceangloberace.com.

The New Zealand Maritime Museum’s heritage scow, Ted Ashby, is available for a special sailing to the start of the Leg 3. Follow the iconic fleet as they set sail for Punta del Este, Uruguay. For more information click on the following link: https://tickets.maritimemuseum.co.nz.

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