“You are not super, super scared. But you ask yourself the questions. With a triple reefed main and with the boat on the edge of control, with the rudder problem, you can only steer with the autopilot, you just stay inside. You ask yourself what is going to happen if the autopilot freaks out and makes a mistake? Then you have a real, real big problem.”
“After the Horn, when we hit 70 knots and the wind was consistently at 60, we sat it out, watching what was going on outside from time to time as we waited at the chart table, ready to adjust the autopilot if needed. These are the most stressful conditions I have seen in 25 years.
“We don't try to get ourselves into these situations. We had prepared the boat as best we could. We stacked the boat as best we could, we had our survival suits on and were ready psychologically.”
Anyway it is good to know that an Open 60 is able to meet these absolutely extreme conditions and keep sailing....on autopilot. Absolutely extraordinary on a boat that weights less than most 40ft cruising sailing boats. So much for those that think that seaworthiness on a sailboat is directly linked to displacement and that heavy boats are necessarily more seaworthy than light boats.
Regarding the race itself, it has not been very interesting. I had pointed out at the beginning that only two boats and teams seemed to me competitive regarding winning it and that the fleet was very dissimilar regarding sailing potential. The two more competitive teams (Hugo Boss and Cheminees Poujoulat) were reduced to one at the early stages of the race when Hugo Boss lost the rig.
About 1000nm separates the first (Cheminees Poujoulat) from the 2nd (Neutrogena) and more than 5000nm!!! separates the last from the first. The two leading boats are very close on sailing potential, being both 2007 Farr designs, both have won major races, one the Vendee Globe (2008/2009) the other the Route du Rhum (2010) but the very experienced crew of Cheninees Poujoulat (Stamm, Le Cam) marks the difference to the less experienced crew of Neutrogena (Altadill, Munõz) that have been doing a good race and learning fast. Without their forced stop at New Zealand for repairs their difference for the first would be less than 200nm even if I believe that Stamm/Le Cam could go faster if they had to.
Some great images from the race: