The neighbourhood

I had some time to look out the window today and took the opportunity to sketch a part of the street. With several days of rain and thawing temperatures, the snow has made a fast exit.

Wave sends Hatfield over; damages Spirit of Canada boat

Latest news from the Vendée Globe round-the-world race: Derek Hatfield is heading north to Tasmania and Australia to make repairs on the Algimouss Spirit of Canada after a wave knocked the vessel on its side and damaged the mast.

Hatfield is deeply disappointed but safe. He has made some makeshift adjustments and hopes to make the 1,000 mile journey to the nearest harbour as safely as possible.

He writes:

After a week battling storm after storm, I thought that we would get a break today with lighter winds. Last night it was blowing 40-47 knots all night long with gusts to 55 knots on occasion. In the gusts, the autopilot was struggling to keep the boat tracking and would round up into the wind. This morning the seas were huge, maybe 25 feet and confused but nothing we couldn't handle normally. I was exhausted and laying in my bunk and crash, the boat went over and I ended up on the ceiling with all kinds of articles whizzing past me. The boat came upright immediately and the carnage inside was immediate. I rushed on deck and my heart sank to see two of the spreaders dangling limp on the shrouds. The shock hits you quickly that this is not fixable and the end of the race is here already. I started to cry and it was uncontrollable. I called Patianne and told her, she was gutted and shocked. It's now been a long day of stabilizing the rig and cleaning up the interior so I can live a little easier and I am still in shock. I feel so bad for Patianne and all the people that have supported us for five long years both financially and emotionally. I know it will pass and we will turn it all around, but the devastating feeling is still here for now. I've headed for Australia to get the boat safely tied to a dock and figure out what to do next. We will persevere and continue on because that is what we do, but right now it's unbelievably difficult. Thank you so much for following and believing in us, we will try and turn it around somehow.     

In a late night interview Derek had this to say: 'As you can see from the picture of the mast there is still a chance that the mast will break, probably above the first spreader, so I am monitoring this situation.'

"I have been in contact with David Adams who is the Australian safety officer for the Vendee Globe Race Committee and he has been very helpful in this situation.

"I have stabilized the rig as much as I can and have the mainsail up to the fourth reef it still doesn't have battens in it as we were waiting until the wind came down which ironically is today. It is dark here now so I'm slowly heading north to better weather I hope.

So now we set about trying to find some support to get the boat back North in sailing trim.

There is a lot of work to do but we are prepared to do what it takes."

Every competitor has taken a beating during the latest five-day blow. Michel Desjoyeux continues to lead the race in his boat, Foncia.  He's in the southern Pacific Ocean making way towards Cape Horn.

For continual updates, go to
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Time for a rest

Now that the Christmas rush is over, Santas around the world are catching up on much needed rest. At the local shopping mall yesterday, workers were already taking down the displays and removing the big man's chair, where just days before children had lined up to sit on his knee for a minute or two.

This drawing was inspired by a photograph in our local newspaper.

Armchair travel

I was riding on the Toronto subway the other day and saw a poster for adventure travel. This is a quick sketch I made between stops. Living in a snowy country, it's nice to image these exotic locations and traditional ways of travelling.

The scene reminds me of so many comic strips and graphic novels I used to read as a child. Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese and the Tintin stories by Herge' come to mind.

Hatfield takes it on the chin but fights on

The round-the-world yacht race is proving very difficult for the competitors in the stormy waters between Australia and Antartica.

Here's the latest report from Derek Hatfield. We wish him better days ahead and a spell of dry weather:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada

What can I say, the days and nights are full of 35-45 knots of wind, big seas, some as large as 25 feet I think, and babysitting the errant auto pilot who for some reason looses the plot and decides to head north. Maybe Joshua is trying to tell me something. Life on board changed drastically about two days ago as far as comfort for the skipper inside the cabin. I was in the cockpit and we came over the crest of this big 20 foot wave and for some reason the pilot turned and went straight down the wave with the bow going into the trough all the way to the mast. I ducked down and grabbed something to hold onto as I knew there would be some heavy water following. After the plunge into the trough the boat stopped so suddenly that the boat slewed sideways and the rolling water came crashing over the side and into the cockpit. I found myself waist high in water for about 15 seconds before it cleared out the transom. The travesty of all this is that the cabin door was open as usual and when inspecting down below, I found that a lot of water had managed to come in the door and soak the cabin. Damage report: nav station soaked, computer making funny beeps and eventually lost the mouse and USP ports for charting software. All the instruments were soaked but I managed to dry them and keep them going for now. The real travesty was my bed; totally soaked. Both sleeping bags onto the floor and into the water, all my dry foul weather gear that I have been so careful about keeping dry, soaked without going outside. It's truly unbelievable where water can get into. I should have known better from the last race around the world but this is an Open 60, it would never be able to swamp the cabin door. Wrong! So now I'm dealing with the relentless wind and waves and cold and wet to boot. Christmas day was not a happy time on board with even the satellites for the phone not co-operating. I hope that you all had a more pleasant day.

The mainsail is now down on deck as the three broken battens were shredding the sail. It was a tough decision to take it down but I need to fix the sail so we can race again. It may be a few days before I can get it fixed. Turns out that the autopilot is much happier anyway which tells me that in over 35 knots the pilot struggles with being overpowered by the sail plan. Right now I have only the staysail up and we still are doing over 20 knots at times. I need the wind to come down so I can cut and fit some new battens and then climb into the mainsail and try and replace them. The top one is under huge pressure from the weight of the sail and normally the battens are loaded with the sail spread on the ground. I'm not sure how that one will go. The pilots are not so happy but managing. I tried switching to the backup pilot but cannot get the wind instrument for that pilot to work. The pilots need the true wind reading to operate well when going down wind. I have four wind instruments on board and only one is working right now so I'm trying to resolve this.

So, all in all a tough couple of days thus far and I'm not sure any respite is in the works. The low pressure systems are back to back and as soon as one moves on, another one develops right behind it. I don't think it's always this way.

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays and be thankful for family, friends and the times around you. Thank you so much for all the great emails, some of them are very touching and I read them over and over again.

Take Care


Ranking: 16th
Position: 48 27.63S 113 22.27E
Distance to Finish: 13706nm
Distance to Leader: 3466nm
Distance to Great American III: 132nm (loss of 15nm over 24hrs)

Happy Holidays!

Warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

May 2009 bring you peace and joy.


Celebrating the Wright brothers' remarkable first flight: December 17th, 1905

It was on this day in 1905 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, that Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first powered flight. It lasted for 12 seconds, but changed history. Orville was lying down on the lower wing of the craft, at the controls; Wilbur running alongside.

Powered flight is now so commonplace, but what a sight it must have been for those on the beach that day!

My drawing from the famous photo by John T. Daniels

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Hatfield reaches out to those following the round-the-world race

While the race has claimed several favourites this week (Loick Peyron on Gitana Eighty dismasted and is slowly making way to nearest land; other boats in the front group have been damaged), the rest of the field continues to struggle with cold seas, constantly changing conditions and lots of fatigue.

In today's update from the Southern Ocean, Derek Hatfield writes about the personal challenges facing him in this difficult stretch of the race:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada

The Southern Ocean is a very humbling place for me. My emotions are raw and on edge due to lack of sleep, cold, isolation, loneliness and let's face it, just plain fear of the unknown. It seems that tactically, for a while no matter what sail, daggerboard and keel configuration I tried, the boat didn't want to respond to my setup. It's very frustrating so I just returned to basic sailing skills to get through the tough conditions and before long, bingo, back on track. That's what I have been doing for the past few days, it was driving me crazy as to why I was so slow. In a tired state, you start to second guess decisions you have made, which of course leads to more mistakes. So, back to basics.

As you can imagine, the decision to return to the start line for repairs was an emotional hit for me, as a competitor you want every chance to be on fair ground with the others. The chance of being on equal footing was lost and it was a tough decision to go back out there so far behind already. When you dig deep and decide to do a race like the Vendee Globe it is an "all or nothing" decision, you must be very clear and true to yourself about the motivation to go racing. We entered this project to see how we could do against the best in the world but it became clear that we would not have the money it took to win as most of my time was spent marketing and promoting the event rather than physically and mentally training for it. When it came time to put the boat back on the race course after the start I had to look to other motivations to do the race. One very strong motivation, in fact the motivation that has kept us going from day 1 was to take the experience and share it with others, children for example. There are millions of children following the skippers in the race, they find it motivating to do something better in their own lives, it let's them know that if you really want to do something, set your goal and just get on with it until it is done. No matter what happens keep moving forward.

Make no mistake, this race is no 'dream', nor was the decision to do it, but it is a natural progression from the last race around the world. I wish you could all see the emails that I am getting from not just these children, but adults as well who are following the race and wish us well and are also motivated by the whole experience. I wish I could publish them here, maybe in the book. I've had a number of conference calls from groups and classes that are following and I get very motivated by each call. All this to say, thank you for your good wishes and interest in us, it is how we got here and it keeps us going.

Take Care


Position in fleet: 22nd
Location: lat: 44 08.75'S long: 22 11.99'E
Distance to Finish: 17301.4
Distance to Leader: 2137.1
Speed: 13.8
Heading: 93 True
24 hour distance: 280.9nm
Distance to Great America III: 484.4nm (-17nm over last 2 days)
Distance to Aviva: 1153nm (-59nm over last 2 days)

To the regular readers of Zanepost, my apologies: I have been unusually busy in the last few weeks and have not had time to write very much on this site.  

I will try to update soon.  Thanks for your understanding. 

In the meantime I hope you're well and, wherever you may be, that the spirit of the holiday season finds its way to you.

Best wishes,

A reminder to think positively

Recent weeks have been filled with extra meetings and activities and preciously little time to write. The busy season is upon us and it's harder to manage life's demands and the time available.

Perhaps you're like me, and wish you could hold a stopwatch and just go "click." With that "click," I fantasize about having the power to stop all activity around me and allow myself the breathing room to accomplish whatever I like until I'm ready to step back into the vortex of life and of moving time. What a luxury that would be!

Psychologists say it helps to tackle projects in small pieces and to focus on positive thoughts. A positive attitude can make daily challenges, well, seem better, and also yield better results. This mindset is something that does not come naturally to me.

As I face another week, I'll lean on this quote from singer Willie Nelson:

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

I know it makes sense...I just have to stir up some willpower to focus on the sunny side of life.

One more for inspiration:

"The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible."

Okay! I'm ready to sing in the rain.
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Around the Cape of Good Hope on Day 27 of the global race

The competitors in the Vendée Globe race are flying along the southern seas as they round the Cape of Good Hope and enter into the Indian Ocean in an easterly direction.

For the last few days, the fleet has been moving briskly in strong winds and everyone has been making good speed, with sustained winds of 20-25 knots and higher.

Sébastien Josse in BT and and Yann Elièsin Generali continue to set the pace. Desite having returned to port for a few days to make repairs at the begininng of the race, Canadian Derek Hatfield in Algimouss Spirit of Canada has caught and passed several competitors and now lies in 22nd position.

Here's his report today:

"I spotted my first albatross for this trip early this morning. They are magnificent birds and seem so at home here in the southern ocean. They soar around, doing a wheeling pattern into the trough of the waves and up high and back down again, only flapping their wings occassionaly. I watched one last trip for over five mintues and it never flapped it's wings once, gliding on it's huge wings and relying on the wind between the waves to keep going. I'm wondering if they can do this wheeling and soaring pattern in their sleep. I've read that they will spend months at sea and never touch land.

"Last night was fast and furious again with a top speed of 25.3 knots, a best for this trip and for this boat. I can feel the effects of the high pressure system now and the barometer is starting to rise. It's going to be very close to make it through before the high develops here. It will be slower today as we slowly make our way down to the gate. Ideally I would like to be farther south but will make do with this spot. We may have to jibe south eventually to get into the furious forties. "

The "gate" he's referring to is a turning point off the southern tip of Africa. High pressure systems generally bring clear skies, but weaking winds, and so the competitors try to avoid these systems as much as they can. On the other hand, these systems give the sailors a chance to rest a little and sometimes high pressure brings welcome relief. It's all about timing.

1. For a video report on the race, see this video summary.
2. Photos on this page are courtesy of

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An update from the South Atlantic: message from Spirit of Canada

Here's another dispatch from Derek Hatfield. He writes:

"Great sailing for the last 24 hours, a personal best in mileage at around 368 miles. Knock on wood (carbon), the weather forecast is still showing the possibility of cutting the corner on the St. Helena High and making some miles on the leaders. I'm watching this very closely as I don't want to get caught in the high pressure system that is coming, it will be brutally windless in this area for a few days on the weekend.

The temperature is still very warm and daytime it's shorts and t-shirt and night time a fleece. I can feel the coolness in the air as I head south and it won't be long until the full layers of long underwear and fleece are required. Of course, on deck, it's foul weather gear all the time due to the spray and waves breaking over the boat.

Top speed last night was 22 knots with sustained surfs on 18 knots for long periods of time, it was fantastic sailing. Today I've had to back off a gear from the genoa to the solent as the wind is getting up to high 20's. The boat is on the very edge of control and I felt it better to save the genoa to fight another day, given that it's the only one I have on board.

Word from back in Canada is that the government is in a bit of turmoil and the economy is at scary levels. I'm sure more than one of our sponsors are feeling the pinch of the recession. Hang in there and never give up on your goals. I feel a little guilty that I'm out here away from all of these woes but maybe some of you following the race can at least find it a motivating diversion from the financial situation.

Take care, Derek."