FROM 1-6. Below 50S

Feb 24, 2005 – 1445hrs UTC

Sitrep: 1445hrs 24 Feb 2005 UTC 50’41”S 113’09”W Map Ref 78

I’ve been chastised for the arrogant assumption that we have actually made the transition from ape to primitive human life form. Fair call, Malcom. I’ll talk severely to my selfish genes and tell them to up their game. Then I’ll try to make a watch and ask Kim to be the arbitrator.

For the first time since we left Sydney on Boxing Day, I can smell the finishing line on this leg – at the risk of overworking the metaphor, there’s a clock ticking out ahead somewhere at 42.2k and someone with a bundle of medals over their arm and a bit of paper with a time on it (or, in these days of tech brilliance, a mat that reads the chip on my ankle.  Wonder how much work in carrying that over 42 k), a cold drink and a clothes bag and – bliss – a shower.   So this is really the hardest part of the whole journey mentally – the line is there in the conscious mind but still way out of sight and the real work is still to be done – just ground away minute by minute till 36k is past and the pain sets in and then the reality that the line is just over the next hill lifts the spirits but adds yearning to the pain. And you get to the line and the body seizes up and you cant walk, you get your finisher’s medal and the tiny weight of it nearly knocks you over and you say never, ever again. And then elation sets in and of course you do it all over again. Mad really.  But Berrimilla is firmly the wrong side of 30k for a time yet and all that elation stuff is a couple of weeks ahead beyond the grind. I hope. But I can smell it.

We crossed 50 south at midnight UTC and the Doctor was informed that another small milestone has been passed. We’re still pointing towards the Horn at about 7 knots, twin poled with the #5 to starboard and the orange storm jib set high on a ten foot strop to port on the outer forestay. Wind howling in the rig and the storm jib shaking slightly on its stay. Quite big swells, and we surf occasionally. They will get bigger. The strip of ocean between 56S and about 62S (Cape Horn to theAntarctic Peninsula) extends all around the world with no landmass to impede the passage and the build up of the swells and they can build to enormous height. Not in itself a problem for a small boat as long as they are not breaking or hollow. They start to break as the wind rises and blows for an extended period and as we move south and we get closer to the influence of this massive effect we must be careful to watch what is happening to the south and west and, if necessary, wait for the situation to improve. There is a permanent easterly current that flows around the world at those latitudes too, which may be helpful.

It’s grey and damp with thick uniform cloud cover all around. One of the more surprising aspects of the weather here is the speed at which things change – from grey and menacing overcast to bright sunlight to fluffy white cumulus in minutes sometimes, and the wind changes direction and strength constantly so we have to be ready all the time to get into the gear and do a sail change. The daily grind of southern ocean life.

I’ve just seen what I’m sure was a seal. Pete had a conversation with one a day or so ago too. Hard to believe that they are this far out – are there surface fish for them to eat? why do they come out here? I suppose any sensible seal would probably wonder what the hell we’re doing out here too. Not sure how I would answer that! Would I do it again? Probably, although in modified form. But we have to finish it yet and that’s way out in the uncertainty field.

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