KELP-TROUBLE OFF THE FALKLANDS FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM
01 MARCH, 2012 | by Oliver Dewar
As Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel crossed the Punta del Este finish line on Wednesday evening taking first place in Leg 3 with Class40 Cessna Citation, there was drama to the south off the Falkland Islands for Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing and some unusually civilised behaviour for Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon off the coast of Argentina with Financial Crisis.
While personnel from the GOR Race Organisation were preparing to board RIBs at the Yacht Club Punta del Este and head into the South Atlantic for a rendezvous with Cessna Citation, it was noted that the South African Class40, Phesheya-Racing was near-stationary and very close to the Jason Island archipelago just north-west of the Falkland Islands mid-evening GMT on Wednesday. Calls were immediately made to family members in Cape Town and to the Class40 to confirm that yacht’s status.
On Thursday morning, Phillippa Hutton-Squire described the scene: “We had sailed straight into a huge raft of kelp!” she confirmed by email. “The kelp was trailing out the back of the boat like the boat had grown a long pony tail.” The South Africans hove-to and began to clear the thick, slippery blades and stipes from the rudders and keel as Phesheya-Racing began to drift downwind towards the rocky shoreline of Jason West Cay: “I pulled the kelp up to Nick with the boat hook and then Nick pulled the kelp to the bow to free it from the keel,” continues Hutton-Squire. “Eventually, we couldn’t reach any more, so we changed tacks and by this time we were very close to Jason West Cay.”
With Phesheya-Racing changing tack, the density of the kelp raft increased. “The pieces of kelp were so big on this tack that we got the halyard around them to try and pull them off,” explains Hutton-Squire. We were very successful with two big chunks, but after three hours of this we were still entangled in kelp.” As Phesheya-Racing drifted closer to the rocks, an alternative method of kelp removal was needed fast. Leggatt quickly climbed into a full wetsuit with dive bottle and with and MOB retrieval line trailing behind the boat, he leapt into the freezing water.
Armed with a knife, Leggatt disappeared under the boat: “Moments later he popped up surrounded by kelp and shouted ‘the keel is free!’” says Hutton-Squire. “Then he had to free the prop and do a quick check under the boat and he did exactly that and four minutes later Nick was back on board safely,” she confirms. By midnight GMT, Phesheya-Racing was moving again and at 15:00 GMT on Thursday, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire were 100 miles north of the Falklands averaging just under five knots in light headwinds and trailing Financial Crisis by 485 miles.
Throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the new race leaders, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon, sailed parallel to the coast of Patagonia 120 miles off the Valdés Peninsular in variable tail winds as the environment began to improve on board Financial Crisis. “The permanent cloud cover of the past few days has broken up during the night and I stood my watch in the cockpit as a magnificent sunrise brought summer to our world,” said Nannini as Financial Crisis approached 40S. “Since we left the icy weather of the high latitudes it has been remarkable to watch the temperature rise very fast as we sail north,” he notes. “Water temperature is now at nearly 20 degrees and today I’m sure we can get rid of all our base and mid-layers and finally sport some shorts and t-shirts.”
Handicapped by the loss of their A2 spinnaker, the final 400 miles to the finish line in Punta del Este are not looking simple: “Apart from this magnificent day, we can’t say we’ve been particularly lucky with the winds,” says Nannini. “First we had lots of headwinds and now that the wind has come round, we’re in light-ish airs without our masthead spinnaker and trying to do the best we can and creep forward a mile at a time toward this holy image of a proper, rare South American steak and the holiest of holy grails, a pint of beer.”
At 15:00 GMT, Financial Crisis was averaging seven knots in light, following breeze, but north-westerly headwinds blowing from the Argentine Pampas are forecast in the next 24 hours and Nannini predicts a Sunday arrival in Punta del Este: “The anticipation is high and I really, really want to get there, but whilst we are sailing I may as well enjoy the nice weather,” says Nannini. “It’s time for a shower on deck, some clean pants, a shave and all the things that can make me feel human again after all that time in the south.”
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 01/03/12:
1. Cessna Citation Finished 20:37:30 GMT 29/2/12
2. Financial Crisis DTF 411 7kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 485 4.8kts