Dee Caffari gives us her account of events as the team sail south

We have just finished a pretty intense 24 hours.

We were gybing along the Ice exclusion zone, which is a barrier to stop us all going too far south and sailing amongst the icebergs. This limit is very far north, maybe a result of global warming. But as the ice gate extends north it reduces our opportunities to sail in good breeze. To the north of us is a high pressure, good for warming up but not good wind to be racing in, to the south of us is this line marking a limit that we cannot cross. Between the two is a narrow corridor of good breeze that we want to stay in.

This corridor was 250 miles long and we needed to gybe many times to remain in the good pressure. A gybe consists of turning the back of the boat through the wind keeping the wind behind you. We carry big sails to go fast but a manoeuvre like this carries some risks. We need to furl the staysails, the additional headsails we use for extra power. We have to move all the internal stack across the boat to the other side. We then need to move all the sails across to the other side and prepare all the sheets ready to gybe. We then make the action of turning the boat, getting a wave to surf on makes this easier. We all grind hard keeping the mainsail under control, getting the new runner on to keep the mast up and rotating the front sail to the new side. Once set we then finish the stack of sails on deck in the right place and set all the staysails for extra horsepower. Those on watch continue sailing and those who were off watch get out of their wet clothes and try and get back into bed on the other side of the boat. This whole process takes some time as you can imagine. We were gybing every 30 minutes to start with, then every hour, then we had a couple of long gybes on port heading east, followed by a short gybe on starboard to the south to take us back to the exclusion zone again. This lasted for 24 hours.

Imagine being in your warm dry sleeping bag and being woken up to gybe. You have to make yourself get out of your warm bunk and put your layers back on. Then you find your wet kit which is still dripping from before and put it back on. You then move your bunk and all the stack internally before going on deck with your wet gloves and hat back on to do the manoeuvre. Once complete, some 20 minutes later, you get to go back down below, remove the wet kit and get back into bed only to be woken to do it all over again 30 minutes later.

There are some tired faces today and some smiles are happening a little less often, but overall everyone is battling on. After all, this is what they signed up for and sailing the Southern Ocean is magnificent. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it.


- Dee and Team TTTOP