More wind on the way. So far it has been windy, up to 35 knots (some 7 beaufort or so) but not really Southern Ocean like. How little did we know?
In the night, the Millie Watch team experienced temporary higher winds. They had to reduce the area of the mainsail by putting in reefs, taken them out, and in again. At 0600 was watch changeover to my Hector team, and the skies looked dreadful. Rain, low light, and the clouds racing through the skies. Everything you’d expect from this place on earth, but with much higher winds.
It must have been around 7 o’clock, I was helming, and the wind came up quickly. 35, 40, 45, and then the real wind squall hit us. Torrential rain, the wind flattening the waves, and spout covered the seas, very spooky. But most of all, winds rose to an amazing ruddy 70 knots plus (some 130 km h)....
Concentration on the helm was needed, and my vision narrowed to a minimum in order to steer the boat in the right angle to the wind. We sailed with two reefs in the mainsail, and our biggest headsails, both of them. Everybody on board went silent in shock and awe. If I steered the boat too much upwind, it would round up into the wind and being knocked down and un-steerable. Steering too low from the wind could lead to a violent crash gybe and possible substantial damage.
70 knots plus fortunately didn’t last long, but 60 knots plus was there for 10 minutes or so. Everybody kept their breath, for the winds but also for the amazing views of the wild seas.
We kept the boat on its feet and were very happy with ourselves and the experience. Shortly before the squall hit I gave my GoPro camera to someone else who shot videos from the phenomenon. This video will never be as impressive as the real thing but for sure is spectacular, I will try to post it along this blog (@ Race Office: can you please put the accompanying video named “20191127 CV20 70 knts Squall” next to this blog Thx!)
Just a bit later even the sun came out, and we were really relieved and cheerful. Then two hours later or so, a second squall appeared on the horizon. I was helming again, but now tired and less concentrated. The wind hit us again with 60 plus; and after 5 minutes or so I lost it, the boat rounded up violently and broached spectacularly. The boat was now dragging the boom of the mainsail deeply through the water, mainsail flogging violently, and we were kept down by the wind with the first spreader of the mast in the water. The rudder was hard to starboard, but didn’t do anything. The boat was not able to right itself and with everybody hanging on to anything they could find, we had to wait for the right wave to bring the bow of the boat around and the boat finding its feet again.
Afterwards; we estimated the time at two or even five long, long minutes. Skipper looked at the instruments during the broach and saw we were still doing 10 knts of boat speed during the broach ;-) After coming back up I gave the helm to Dan the Skipper and went down below, very tired and disillusioned. How could I have lost the plot? He got knocked down another two times in subsequent squalls. Some things just happen.
So that’s it, we’ve seen it, and experienced it to the max! We can go home now. Back to loved ones; dry beds and warm showers.... Order the helicopters to get us out of this inhospitable place on earth!! Oh no, wait a moment, we still got to overtake two boats before we finish!!