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)

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