Yesterday, the Dutch crew on SEC HAYAI, Frans Budel and Ysbrand Endt, passed the longitude of Cape Leewin in south-west Australia, a 3,580-mile (6,630 km) sea passage from Mauritius, which took them 16 days and 12 hours. They were followed just 8 hours later by the Japanese/Italian crew on MILAI Around The World. SEC HAYAI was also the first to negotiate the gate at Eclipse Island, the course mark close to Cape Leeuwin.

Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn… In the legendary trilogy synonymous with round the world races, the GLOBE40 has now played its first two cards. This passage via Australia more or less marks the halfway point in the event’s second longest leg, which spans nearly 7,000 miles (13,000 km) in all and rounds of in New Zealand.

Having set sail from Mauritius on Sunday 11 September, the competitors quickly plunged southwards in a bid to avoid a very wide zone of high pressure and light winds at the centre of the Indian Ocean and track down the steady W’ly winds that they hoped would push them towards Australia. The descent proved to be very tactical, with the crews positioning themselves further north or south, west or east than their rivals, according to their progress. As a result, 4 teams were constantly jockeying for the top spot, crossing and recrossing one another’s wakes just a mile apart at times, slap bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

After a week of this exhausting game in the light airs and approaching the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), the skippers had to dance to a rather different tune with the arrival of a meaty 30 to 40 knots of W’ly wind with one foot in the dreaded ‘Roaring Forties’, a zone that stretches from 40 to 50° S. What followed was a week of slipping along at pace, the speedos spinning (24 knots posted by AHMAS) and some wild sleigh rides under the watchful eye of the albatrosses. A tantalising taste of the Deep South then, whilst remaining inside the limit of 42° South set by the race to maintain the spirit of the category 1 race, which rules out the lower latitudes and the Antarctic zone.

As the fleet approached Australia, it had to climb northwards again to negotiate the compulsory passage mark of Eclipse Island, a small, deserted island just a few miles off the Australian coast. Light winds once again coloured the racetrack and reaching this mark appeared to be a rather tough mission for a few days. Ultimately, the 2 front runners were only able to open up a 48-hour lead at best ahead of the chasing pack. Very much on the attack behind, the crew on GRYPHON SOLO2 has been in great shape in this leg, while AMHAS lamented a few autopilot issues for a few days and the team on WHISKEY JACK has been battling hard despite multiple repairs to their ripped mainsail.

There is still a hefty chunk of racetrack left for everyone to cover with the 1,500-mile passage across the Great Australian Bight, the feared Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania and the Tasman Sea, with another 1,000 miles to reach Cape Reinga to the north of New Zealand, prior to a final descent along the eastern seaboard of New Zealand’s North Island to reach Auckland.

A simply exceptional sailing experience, a taste of the vast expanses of ocean in the southern latitudes, amazing encounters like that off Amsterdam Island, where contact can be made with the scientists who spend an entire year on this the most remote inhabited island on the planet, and the journey to the tiny Eclipse Island, appearing over the horizon like a mirage in the desert, and the continuing spectacle of marine purity, of an ocean seriously under threat, and the urgent need to preserve it for future generations.

 During this leg, countless highs, and lows, have punctuated the daily lives of the crews competing in the GLOBE40, as evidenced by their daily exchanges with those of us back on land:

 GRYPHON SOLO 2: “No wind here, we are parked hard, which gave us a chance to dry our stuff and do some maintenance, and we were able to run a messenger line through the mast so we can have a fractional halyard again. It got dark while I was splicing, so I will go up there tomorrow again. A bit of warmer weather was pleasant, but the no wind scenario is getting to our heads.”

 AMHAS: “We have finally replaced our non-functional autopilot with our onboard spare.

The spare is a new version… It’s old school and lacks sophisticated complexity, integrated logic and a multitude of external sensors. However, the KH7000 is incredibly reliable, strong and accurate. It only requires an endless stream of caffeine, freeze-dried food, cookies (preferably French) and the occasional bathroom break. The KH7000: “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”

 SEC HAYAI: “A good afternoon to you all from a cold, wet, windy, but also very beautiful Southern Ocean, with a lot of albatrosses. We were glad we could gybe this morning! We are longing for some higher temperatures, so we can get really dry in the boat. As you can imagine, everything is wet from condensation. The only two dry places are our foul weather gear, or our sleeping bags. Everything else is wet (and salty) Haha!

 WHISKEY JACK: “Whiskey Jack has been slow since yesterday evening. The reason is that when taking down our spinnaker it wrapped (twisted) badly around the Solent stay. Jeronimo made a trip up the mast and after many hours fighting the spinnaker it is still around the stay but secured. During the exercise we also crash-gybed and the mainsail tore on a spreader AND a winch in the cockpit fell to pieces! So, after a very busy night we are now resting. We will remain quite slow as we need better conditions to solve all these problems. The domino effect in full force!”

 MILAI: “Today we pushed to get closer to our rivals on Sec Hayai. This morning our boat was an airplane, reaching with 30kt of wind. We had an average speed of 14kt with a top speed of up to 18kt. Maybe more. Amazing. Unfortunately on Sec Hayai they are really fast too. Bravo to our mates!! We’ll keep pushing to catch up with them.”


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