Southern Ocean Storm

Well that’s another new experience! I can now say I’ve helmed and sailed in the Southern Ocean in a Force 12!! At it’s peak we saw 85 Knots (close on 100mph) winds and waves that we estimated must have been 40 feet high at times. It was nothing but ferocious. Compared to some of the others in the fleet though we had it comparatively light; Jamaica registered 120 Knots in the gusts and spent 6 hours hove-to under a deep reefed main.

For us we still managed Easterly progress under storm jib and 3 reefs in the main. However changing down from the No. 3 Yankee to the Storm Jib in those conditions is not something I would like to do again. It took a supreme team effort to man handle the old sail down, drag it back out of the way and rig the Storm Jib. All the while waves were crashing across the boat. Helming in those conditions was not easy either. Apart from the bitter cold there was the stinging, blinding and rain spray that tried it’s hardest to hide that breaking wave that if not handled right could potentially knock the boat down.

The storm built quickly, the evening before we had been under spinnaker and subsequently the No. 1 Yankee (another story) then within a matter of hours it was 3 reefs and the No. 3 Yankee. The wind and seas continued to build over the next 12 hours until Storm Jib was the next step down. Compared to the No. 3 Yankee it is a mere handkerchief! Around teatime we were hit by a huge squall where visibility dropped to zero and the rain was horizontal, when suddenly as if somebody had flicked a switch the wind backed, abated and the rain stopped; the front had crossed us finally!

Forgotten in amongst all this was yet another spinnaker incident. The day before we had been making great progress under kite when the block at the top of the mast exploded dropping the whole thing into the water. All hands were then required to haul the thing back in board.

Needless to say over the last 36 hours we have had little sleep…..

However we are now sailing under sunny skies again, the wind and sea have calmed, although it is bitterly cold down in 44′ South. It also just so happens I’m on mother duty so a chance for me to catch up on lost sleep.

6 Comments to "Southern Ocean Storm"

  1. Terry says:

    Puts the NG Hell and High Water regatta in to context! Stay safe and keep ticking off those bucket list experiences.
    Regards
    Terry

  2. Peter Wilcock says:

    Hi Neill, don’t know if, or when, you will see this but not likely before you reach Albany I guess. Great blogs thank you. You have all obviously been having a most extraordinary time tackling adversity and sailing your socks off. Congratulations are in order all round, not to mention quite a few beers when you reach Oz which won’t be too long now. In an earlier blog you mention your dry-suit. I have decided to buy one and would love to know which one you have. please can you just post some details or whatever is easiest for you. Give everyone my very warmest wishes and I look forward to seeing the RTWs in Quingdao and perhaps yourself at the finish in London next July if not before. Peter.

    • Neil says:

      I have the HL one. It is a great bit of kit, by far and away the best money I have spent. The crew issued ones just didn’t cut it in the Southern Ocean; neck, wrist and leg seals hopeless. However I remained bone dry in the dry suit – does exactly what it says on the tin! Also it doesn’t matter if your boots get wet on the inside, and they will, as the dry suit has built in socks.

      If you are doing leg 6 then you need a dry suit!!

  3. Peter Wilcock says:

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly Neil, that is really helpful. I have spoken to Paul Orme at HL and he says that the only dry suits they do now are for the Clipper crew. Is this the one you bought? Was around £1K but currently in their sale! Made of Goretex with latex rubber seals and Goretex socks.

    I have read your most recent blog and it really does look as if you have experienced virtually the complete range of sailing conditions already. Your Southern ocean trip sounds fantastic and we were watching with bated breath on Yellowbrick as the final race in unfolded. You caught up Invest Africa so quickly I wondered if the tracker was wrong. What a way to finish the race and I bet everybody was really pleased, especially Matt. I was really sorry to hear about Mick’s injury. Please pass on my best wishes for a speedy recovery. I look forward to seeing you in London next summer unless there are opportunities to meet beforehand. Please say hi to everybody. Best wishes, Peter.

    • Neil says:

      Yes that sounds like the one. Although I only paid £760 ish for it with the Clipper Crew discount. I’ll be selling mine at the end of Leg 4, size S – Derek and Claire are interested at the moment but have yet to try it on.

      Will say Hi to the guys for you.

  4. Peter Wilcock says:

    That must be it thanks Neil. It’s down to £500 in their sale which makes it the same price as the Typhoon. Am going down to Weymouth to have a look at it. From what I have heard about the weather in Albany at the moment it sounds like you could do with it on land! Enjoy Leg 4. By the time you get home you will have the complete set of possible sailing experiences, well almost. Only icebergs left!

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My Clipper 13-14 Adventure