The gentle side of the Southern Ocean

It seems that the one thing that’s predictable about the weather is that’s unpredictable. Nothing supports this better than the benign conditions the Clipper Round the World Race crews are experiencing in the Southern Ocean right now. The usual picture of the Southern Ocean is a forbidding one of great hissing greybeards driven by howling winds, with plenty of snow, cold and an occasional iceberg sighting as a reminder that you’re in the loneliest stretch of water on Earth. But the weather described blow sounds positively balmy.

From the press release: Now the majority of the Clipper fleet are in the Southern Ocean (south of 40 degrees south) the crew will be anticipating strong winds and massive waves. However, with an almost stationary high pressure system sitting just ahead of them, the majority of the teams have been enjoying moderate winds, flat seas and clear skies.

Ricky Chalmers, skipper of the current leader, Durban 2010 and Beyond, reported to the Race Office this morning, “We are following in the wake of the high pressure across the Southern Ocean, getting consistent 12 knots of wind at a 90 degree true wind angle, on flat seas. Couldn’t be more perfect; comfortable and fast sailing. Not at all how I remember the place last time I was here, bashing to windward in 35 – 40 knots of true wind for three weeks with three reefs in the main, Yankee 3 and storm staysail.”

Jamaica skipper, Simon Bradley, commented this morning, “I certainly didn’t expect to be wearing flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt in the Southern Ocean!” He did go onto to reveal that his crew are all wearing thermals and oilskins!

These weather conditions will continue for the next few days before the fleet starts to feel the influence of the next low pressure system before the weekend. This system will bring 40-knot winds, lots of rain and the big waves that all the crews have been waiting for.

After more than 1,500 nautical miles of racing, and with 2,700 still to go, Hull & Humber and Uniquely Singapore are in sight of each other which allows the skippers to study their opposite number’s tactics and also puts more pressure on the crew to sail well.

Uniquely Singapore’s skipper, Mark Preedy, writes, “We have Hull & Humber a few miles on our starboard quarter. It has focused the crew again and it is interesting to see that they are taking a more southerly course than we are.”

Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, “Some of the skippers don’t like other boats nearby as it freaks out the crew, but Mark is obviously not one of them, judging by his further comments. He said this morning, ‘Hopefully the next sched will show that we have maintained our fourth spot. We are trying to defend it and having Hull & Humber in sight helps us keep things fresh and motivated. Uniquely Singapore definitely likes to have other boats in sight. If not, the crew are like me – easily distracted!'”

The Clipper fleet is expected to arrive in Fremantle on approximately 16 December.

By Ocean Navigator