Adios, southern latitudes

Big smiles broke out yesterday—Sunday—at the end of the day. A streak of blue appeared in the sky after more than 72 hours of overcast, cold and wet conditions. This, along with a glimpse of the setting sun, is a sort of exit door. We had just won our tug-of-war with a vast low-pressure system that tried to ensnare us.

With the ORC jib up and three reefs in the main, Gitana 13 took wave after wave over the bow, at the upper limit of the normally accepted speed. The hulls were wet inside and out, as was the crew, more than ever before on this trip. First close-hauled, then a little less so, we pushed our way through. Behind us, not far, the trap has closed. The north-northwest wind, along the axis of our route, was blowing 35-40 knots, which is the precise situation that we were trying to avoid, with a long, painful and dangerous upwind leg up the coast of Chile. Which means we picked the right window for getting around the Horn and then beginning our northward journey—good thing we didn't miss it!  Right now, those are not good waters to be in: a new string of low-pressure systems has marched on Cape Horn since Saturday morning, and the door there is again closed until next Friday. We slipped through a mouse hole. Our thanks again go to Sylvain Mondon on land for guiding us with a sure hand...which we can count on at all hours of the day and night.

Today we will move out of the southern latitudes, the famous “furious fifties” and “roaring forties.” Since we spent much longer here than anybody wanted, no one on board is sorry to go...although we'll miss the endless flight of the albatross. We keep mentioning them, but you simply can't help but fall prey to the charms of these birds that constantly skim the foam with their long wings. The biggest ones that we saw came last Saturday to put on one last show, a sort of farewell. Since then, no birds in the sky.

Our goal for the next few days is to make progress up the eastern edge of the Easter Island high-pressure system. At 4:00 UT, the big gennaker resumed its post. It is pulling us toward warmer waters, where we'll again see flying fish. The water temperature is currently 17°C, whereas it was only 6 °C at the tip of South America. With only 315 and 412 miles covered over the weekend, we'd really like to go into turbo mode, but we can't do that just yet. In order to get into the best position, we are sailing far from the direct route. So our net progress will surely be less than 400 miles again.


Nicolas Raynaud

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