What an eventful 24 hours. We were in the bulls-eye of the strong winds for the depression. Solent to staysail to storm jib, and 1 reef to 2 reefs to 3 reefs in the mainsail. A big sea built, and it was, as usual, cold and gray. We had 35 knots of wind, and although the polars call for more sail than I had, I still felt it was correct for me.

Finally, I thought it would be best if we tried to escape to the south, and so tack-gybed, which we accomplished in the big seas gratifyingly. We headed southeast and in 12 hours we would have less wind and maybe less sea.

At one point, an alarm went off on the instruments – ‘no speed source’, and all the data went blank. The pilot was still steering, but I noticed that our course relative to the wind was off by about 30 degrees, which I corrected on the pilot controller. Luckily, if the pilot is steering according to a wind angle, and then loses that information, it defaults to compass. But now the controller was frozen. It was still steering, but no buttons worked.

I called Joff and then Rachel, at that time 3 am in UK. Those around a Vendée Globe project are on call 24/7. So I spoke with Rachel, our electronics guru, for almost 3 hours. The plan devised was to switch to the second autopilot. The problem is that to do that, you have to first hand steer the boat, and then leave the tiller, rush below to turn 9 switches in sequence, then rush back on deck, and grab the tiller before anything untoward can happen to a boat that is not being steered, especially in a chaotic sea as we had. Luckily, the compass course that was frozen in was a good course, and was ok for the 3 hours of our conversation, plus another 4 or 5, so I waited until we were in somewhat better conditions before making the maneuver. When completed, the autopilot said ‘setup required’. Oh no… we had set both pilots up before the start, with the primary BG person on board.

I then went through the 9 switches again, back to the original pilot, and fortunately, very very fortunately, it took, and we are back in business.

Rachel talked with BG and they think that the problem was one of timing, that some piece of the complex puzzle didn’t get a piece of informaton in time, and that it should be ok if tried again. Fingers crossed that we don’t have to switch again.

We gybed near the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and are now heading East, trying to stay close to the center of the low, to get less wind as this depression continues to affect the group. We are within 800 nm of Cape Horn, but that still seems very far away.

Additionally, race management sent the latest on icebergs, which may have been detected on December 26, and their estimated drift positions, which are in our vicinity on our path for the next 24 hours. Accompanying that was the fact that the satellite took a photo of the area yesterday, and detected nothing. We will go with our radar, and hope that if there is any ice, it will be picked up that way.

Wish us luck on all these fronts!

56°05’S x 92°36’W
137° True
11.5 knots
20,028 nm
True Wind Speed
18 knots
True Wind Direction
Sails (click for diagram)
Mainsail (2 reefs), Solent
Air temperature
52° F / 11.6° C
Sea Temperature
49° F / 9.4° C

Winch Pedestal Revolutions (daily) Amp Hours: Alternator (total) Amp Hours: Solar (total) Amp Hours: Hydro (total) Amp Hours: Wind (total)
3882 1311 17,051 2977