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Close encounters

January 07, 2006 18:30 0 comments

The fleet racing in leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race is now beginning to see and feel the effects of the true Southern Ocean. The Albatrosses that this part of the world is famous for are now in abundance, and several boats have had close encounters of the wildlife kind.

Yesterday it was leader, ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson) who had these enormous seabirds keeping them company. There has been a good blend and mix of Albatross sighted; the crew of The Black Pearl (Paul Cayard) has reported Wanderer, Greybeard (they think) and Sooty Albatrosses, all flocked together.

“Absolutely beautiful creatures, it’s no exaggeration,” wrote Cayard. “Born to fly effortlessly and silently for hours, as opposed to say, a helicopter, which is a noisy, smelly, highly intense flying machine, which can barely stay in the air for four hours before it has to rattle back to land in a sweat for more fuel. It needs a service every 500 hours, overhaul at 1000 hours and a full strip and assemble at 2000 hours. Albatrosses can disappear for months to sea, never see land or hardly a living soul, and be happy, content, and self sufficient. That is an impress strength and character we could all learn from,” he noted. The birds the crew saw birds were big, with a wingspan of approximately 10 feet.

The crew of ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse) are also pleased to see their feathered friends. “They circle and swoop past the boat at regular intervals checking us out. Their massive wingspan makes them look like B52 bombers flying around the boat. No matter how many come past, they continue to be an awesome sight of which we haven’t tired. George Peet has taken to making a noise that he describes as the Albatross mating call (being a biologist, he might be telling the truth), but as yet I don’t think he has much luck and they continue to swoop by undisturbed,” wrote Simon Fisher.

As well as having a small electrical fire onboard which was swiftly dealt with, the Pirates had an encounter with a slightly larger species, one of the swimming kind, passing up to one boat length off their port side. “Today we have had two close ‘fly-by’ whale moments. Close calls each time brings home the reality that this is a real threat to both us and them, yet it is a real treat to have them around. Vigilance is a priority,” read the daily log. The second whale the team saw was big. “We didn’t recognise him, couldn’t see his face, but his back had a nice dorsal type fin and he looked well fed. He must have been 25 feet long and he was heading west at about four knots, against our east-ish heading at 20 knots. Makes a collision at 25 knots most uncomfortable for us both.”

As the air temperature drops steadily, the top three boats are now surrounded by thick fog. “You can now see your breath when you are downstairs in the boat which is forcing us to take refuge deep within our thick sleeping bags in order to remain warm in our bunks,” wrote Simon Fisher from ABN AMRO TWO this afternoon. The spray that constantly flies across the deck is now cold and icy leading to extra layers of clothing and gloves being dragged out of kit bags.

ABN AMRO ONE has kept hold of her lead, but the chasing pair of Pirates of the Caribbean and ABN AMRO TWO is now level pegging in the battle for second place. Movistar (Bouwe Bekking) is back up to speed but lost nine miles to leader in the past six hours.

The Aussie battlers on ING Real Estate Brunel (Grant Wharington) have been pushing their boat up to speed. “Finally, Scotty (Jeff Scott) has got a wide grin on his face, enjoying the conditions that he was made for,” wrote navigator Matt Humphries this afternoon. Currently their speed has dropped now to 13.5 knots but their 24 hour average speed and mileage was the highest in the fleet.

The forecast for the next three days is north westerly winds of approximately 20 – 25 knots gusting 30 knots at times. Mileage should be high, but possibly not record-breaking material. Yet.


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