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The Southern Ocean

Hello from Fremantle, Australia! We arrived late Wednesday night, December 13th, after a 25 day crossing from Cape Town, and in a few hours we begin racing from Fremantle down under Australia and Tasmania to Newcastle (above Sydney) and then into Aislee Beach in the Whitsunday Islands...but first, a recap of Leg 3, the Southern Ocean.

For many sailors the Southern Ocean (some debate whether we were in the Southern Ocean or just South Indian Google it and decide...our racing rules limit us to 46 degrees south, the Roaring 40's) holds a particular mystique: remote, cold, wet, big waves and big I had some trepidation about Leg 3 as we departed Cape Town...we all did. I was not let down, but also surprisingly, the hype may actually be just that, hype.

For me, Leg 3, our race from Cape Town to Fremantle can be broken into 3 main sections: the dive south to get into the roaring 40's in order to pick up the best winds (not necessarily the strongest), the run east, hugging the southerly boundary at about45 degrees, 55 minutes south, right along the line where we were allowed to go, and then the rise up north to Fremantle, trying to avoid the wind holes that form off of Australia. Our goal is to find good wind, avoiding big orange/red blobs of really low pressure and very high winds as seen in this picture. We are looking for "Goldy Locks" wind: "just right" to propel us across the oceans.

Our overall track across to Fremantle is shown in the picture below...every few hours or when I can I take a 'snap' of our position using Navionics which is a navigation app I have on my phone.

The Dive South

Our race began on November 18th...I bid farewell to Jean who as able to come to Cape Town and we had a great time. Cape Town and surrounding area is an amazing place...I highly recommend this city!

We took an out a week to get down into the mid-lattitude 40's. Our race rules prevent us from going below 46 degrees takes us too far of the great circle route to Fremantle, too remote, and gthe winds and seas are even bigger. No need...and I'm fine with that! The racing was fast and furious coming out of Cape Town, but by the first night, we hit our first wind hold and the fleet stopped. We were all within a mile or so of each other and the few of Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope was spectacular. If you have to float around, you might as well have something beautiful to look at.

Our low point on this point of the race was our very bad spinnaker wrap of our Code 3 (our heaviest) spinnaker...we basically knocked it out of action with some nasty tears that cold only be fixed in Australia. Here is a picture of Will, our bosun, going up the mast to make some repairs (sorry the video is too big to load). Not for the meek (he is about 100 feet off the sea) and we were at the top of our game to get him up and down safely while at sea.

The Roaring 40's

The second part of our journey is the race across the lowest part of our track...from about 40 to 45 degrees south. Here we encountered the wettest, coldest part of our journey. Temperatures were in 40's/50's, very high winds (to 66 knots) and big waves (we estimate 7 to 8 meters, if not somewhat higher). Our goal on this section was to go as fast as we could (our speed record was 26 knots, mine is about 22 knots surfing the boat). We spent over a weeks down in this part of the world and it is place you don't really want to spend a lot of time in. It is beautiful in its own grey, heaving, boiling, windy way...and I can only imagine what winter must be like. My gear and training really helped me here and I was well prepared for this leg of the race. Wool, dry suit, physically fit, all made it possible let experience the waves crashing over the boat, the long dark nights, and the high winds. We had a great time surfing the boat, and it is truly something to feel a 70' boat rise up on a big wave, look down towards the bow and see nothing but water, and look back and see a wall of water!

To give you some idea of the ferocity of this environment this is a short video taken with the 360 degree camera our skipper has (but note, it isn't like this everyday!)

The Sprint for Fremantle...NOT!

If the second part of our race was fast and furious, the third section was not! But it was beautiful sailing, just slow. We could not find a wind pattern that would propel us to the top of the pack and we slowly worked our way through a variety of wind holes and light wind. The night sky was amazing and the stars, planets and galaxies stunning...but it was if we had exited the 'worm hole' and found ourselves in a different race. The lead boats snuck through while rest of the fleet struggled on. This picture somewhat sums up our time: drying out and warming up!

Our hope for fast arrival into Fremantle slowly evaporated and with a lot of damaged spinnakers and halyards from the beating our boat took, we could feel our R&R time slipping away. We arrived in Fremantle the night of December 13th after 26 days at sea and 5,349 nautical miles. We placed 6th in fleet, but just recently got penalized for entering an exclusion zone at the end of the race, and got knocked down to 9th...a huge disappointment for us on a technicality that one of our competitors brought up (and which we won't forget!), but hey, that is ocean racing.

The End

All close out this blog post with a few reflective thoughts. It has BEEN AN AMAZING YEAR! One of change, challenge, and growth. The oceans are big, vast, powerful, humbling and beautiful! I am exceptionally privileged to be doing this and recognize I can't do it with all the love, support you all have shown me and my family. I humbly and graciously "thank you"! I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I will be somewhere at sea below Australia...look for Team Qingdao on the Race Tracker.

Lastly, in this season of giving, please if you can, give to my race charities here...the end of the tax year is coming and this is the time!

I'll close with a montage of pictures...I'm told I don't post enough LOL...I'm doing well and have much to be grateful for.

Thanks for reading and we'll connect soon in 2024!


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Wow! Just wow! What an amazing life experience!

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19 dic 2023

Merry Christmas to you Chris! Keep the posts coming - I love reading about this adventure. Stay healthy and safe and happy sailing! Brittany

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Jane vdZT
Jane vdZT
19 dic 2023

An early merry merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe new year!! Thanks for sharing this with us. Love your descriptive writing, pics and videos. Reconfirms I love the big water best sitting on the beach. 😁 Best wishes for a speedy race down under.

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Mary Markarian
Mary Markarian
19 dic 2023

Xmas wishes:

Fingers crossed for a top three spot

Consistent skipper from now til finish

And always safe and fun journey

God speed.

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Incredible, Chris! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with those of us still on land.

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