Auckland, January 7, 2023
Second leg: Cape Town – Auckland
The first leg from Southampton to Cape Town stretched a bit longer than expected, leaving us only a week to prepare the boat and crew for the next leg to Auckland. Fortunately, there were no major issues, and we got everything done in time. We felt confident to continue our journey, but I’m sure many of us had a few extra butterflies in our stomachs as we headed towards the legendary Southern Ocean.
The Southern Ocean is a vast and untamed expanse of water encircling Antarctica. It is known for its fierce winds, challenging waves and untouched beauty. As there are no significant land masses in the high latitudes of the southern hemisphere, systems of low pressure can circulate freely around Antarctica. On the northern side of these low-pressure systems, powerful westerly winds create a kind of conveyor belt that pulls the ships eastwards — precisely in our intended direction.
The Great Circle Route, the shortest route from Cape Town to Auckland, cuts directly through Antarctica. Of course, when travelling by sea, you’ll have to navigate around and keep clear of the treacherous icebergs. Our race route has waypoints that keep us north, away from these dangers.
Our strategy was to head south to find the good winds and then sail the shortest route. With no access to live weather data, we rely on weather fax printouts and barograph readings to predict the winds. We made a few manoeuvres to avoid some nasty-looking weather systems, but this was unnecessary and cost us precious time. We also had a bit of bad luck and had to sail into the wind to reach one waypoint. Apart from that, everything went smoothly. We sailed fast and safely – ok, we broke a few sails, but our skilled sailmakers repaired them. It’s amazing how they can sew together a 200 m2 spinnaker in a tiny boat saloon!
Ocean sailing requires meticulous preparation and constant attention. We practically always tether ourselves to the boat with harnesses; falling overboard is simply not an option. When moving around on the boat, it’s crucial to always have a handhold, and inside we wear Crocs to avoid slipping. It has become second nature for us to take care of ourselves, e.g. we moisturise our hands after every watch, because even minor scratches and issues can escalate in these constantly humid conditions, and the nearest coast is hundreds of kilometres away.
On deck, there must be the right number of people to carry out the sailing manoeuvres, which are always discussed together before execution. We have also documented detailed descriptions for each manoeuvre and update them when we move on and learn something new. Sometimes we perform several manoeuvres in the few hours of a watch, so the watches tend to pass quickly.
In the end, this first part of the Southern Ocean was fairly easy for us. We had some strong winds and rough seas, but nothing we couldn’t handle. As the audience expected, I made a song about this second leg, too. This one is a traditional Finnish Christmas song with a Southern Ocean twist.
The third leg starts on 14 January, and we expect to reach Punta del Este (Uruguay) in the second half of February. Stay tuned.