Spectacular OGR Southern Ocean Sleigh Rides

It doesn’t come much better, or closer racing than this at the bottom of the world, deep in the Southern Ocean. Pen Duick VI FR (14), skipped by Marie Tabarly, is first on the leaderboard, IRC ranking and Flyer Class. She and her historic 73 ft Bermudian Ketch have something to prove that goes right back to that very first Whitbread, 50 years ago and she’s doing just that, backed by a committed crew. 

Translated 9 IT (09), second on the leaderboard, IRC and FlyerClass, and Maiden UK (03), third on the leaderboard, IRC and Flyer – making the rankings look very ordered, neat, and tidy indeed. But this can all change in the blink of an eye, or as we call it, the four-hourly Yellow Brick tracker update. That’s just what is making Leg 2, Cape Town-to-Auckland, such compelling viewing. With the whole fleet posting impressive daily averages, the lead pack is now over halfway to the City of Sails and the pressure is mounting daily.

The determined sailors on board the Swan 65 Translated 9 first skippered by Clare Francis as ADC Accutrac in the 1977 Whitbread and now skipped by the much-respected Vittorio Malingri, whose father and uncle entered the first 1973 Whitbread, are just ONE hour behind Pen Duick VI in IRC. After 18 days of racing and 4000 miles sailed it’s hard to believe just 60 minutes separates first and second place in IRC.

One small wind shift, a tactical error, or lady luck playing her card will shuffle this neatly ordered deck. It’s nail-bitingly close. The lead swapping, sometimes daily. The extra pressure of such close numbers is proving exhilarating. With day after day of 3-5mtr seas and 30-35 knots winds gusting 45kts on the aft quarters catapulting the yachts towards Auckland, at impressive of 9-10 knots averages peaking into the 20’s, the competition almost within binocular range, gives an extra hit of adrenaline and exactly what these sailors are down there for. Yes, there are whales, albatross and hundreds of dolphins to marvel at, but those leading the fleet are born racers. And rankings matter. The sailors are living their dream in an event that has simply not been possible for 30 years.

And still very much in the hunt are the women onboard Maiden, who despite making the most of the 5-metre surfing waves and pushing hard, admitted the wind is interfering with their dinner plans. Always a crew who, despite their phenomenal work ethos, not only finds the time and energy to entertain the rest of their fleet with Maiden Radio, but keeps us informed of their dietary preferences onboard. On Leg one the lack of cheese caused issues, Leg two it appears to be pizzas – understandable really for a crew that lives on freeze-dried food.

“Anyone know how 2 order Ubereats on Sat phone? Our go-to Southern Ocean pizza guy won’t deliver in 30+kts.” Tweeted Maiden

Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) who took line honours in Leg One is leading in Sayula Class. Skipper of the Swan 651, Jussi Paavoseppä, explained that they’d had a busy week. As well as using their energy growing moustaches for “Movember”, the crew removed their mainsail three times to complete repairs.

“We had a tough week. We crashed-tacked, then did the same again. We broke our own rules about driving safely in higher winds. We got a little excited and too keen to push too hard. We broke battens in the mainsail and 3 stanchions broke. But all the crew are safe.” JUSSI PAAVOSEPPÄ, SKIPPER – SPIRIT OF HELSINKI

Former Whitbread winner L’Esprit d’équipe FR (85) is close behind but is taking the time for some star gazing.

“Another dark night loomed, until the sky opened up to reveal a beautiful starry sky! Southern cross in sight.” Tweeted the crew.

Triana FR (66), leading Adventure class, has taken the most Southerly route which is paying off for the Swan 53. They had three birthdays onboard this week, including the skipper’s Jean d’Arthuys, who celebrated by breaking the boat speed record of 20.6 knots.

Galiana WithSecure FI (17), Evrika FR (07) and Outlaw AU (08) are keeping up the speeds too despite some issues.

The crew of Outlaw have been busy fixing broken battens and pockets on their J4 sail. They have also had to improvise and construct a handy-billy block and tackle arrangement replacing their hydraulic vang after breaking the attachment at the bottom of their mast. Also Medhi, ‘their French Spiderman’ spent five hours aloft cutting down a wrapped spinnaker on their forestay. Despite all this, they are still making impressive speed, averaging over 200nm a day.

Galiana WithSecure are another yacht with some sail maintenance to complete onboard.

“Quite a day, 100+ dolphins, 2 whales, lots of birds, 20-40 kn wind, 200+ miles, one blown out spinnaker, 2 upper battens changed, water 8 degrees.” tweeted Galiana WithSecure.

White Shadow ESP (17) and Neptune FR (56) are back of the main pack. White Shadow the most northerly of the fleet may struggle as they sail into lighter winds. Still they are not complaining. Far from it. They are enjoying every minute of their life in the cold Southern  Ocean.

Meanwhile, the crew of Neptune admit to feeling the cold too inside their 60 Aluminum sloop which took part in the 1977 Whitbread.

“The temperature has dropped considerably and we’re living in sea wear. Outside, at night, it can get a bit nippy. Inside, in a poorly insulated aluminium hull too.” tweeted Neptune.

Australian entrant Explorer, forced to return to Cape Town last week after losing their genoa and damaging their furling system and forestay, slipped lines on Sunday evening. The Swan 57, skippered by Mark Sinclair, AKA Captain Coconut of Golden Globe fame, has 3500nm to catch up in the lead boats and it’s estimated they won’t arrive in Auckland until January 8th just days before the restart of leg three to Cape Horn. Seventeen-year-old Ryder Ellis from Auckland was excited to finally get going again and described how he’s been keeping busy during the first days back at sea.

“We just had some Astro lessons from Captain Coconut. It’s gone in one ear and out the other but I’ll do my best.” RYDER ELLIS, YOUTH CREW ONBOARD EXPLORER, SAID DURING HIS SATELLITE CALL

He also confirmed they hadn’t yet lost a bucket or a winch handle overboard – they lost four handles during Leg One, something Explorer owner and OGR founder Don McIntyre could only smile about, with no other reports of any lost handles across the rest of the fleet!!

South African entrant Sterna SA (42). The Swan 53 also was forced to return to Mossel Bay four days into leg two, to investigate water ingress from their rudder shaft. After carrying out extensive work on their rudder, they left for Auckland on Tuesday night after submitting a surveyors report to Race organisers confirming all is back to original specifications.

Their skipper on Leg one Rufus Brand has stepped down due to unexpected family medical issues requiring his immediate presence. Well-qualified and experienced South African Melissa Du Toit who has been chief mate onboard for the past 15,000 miles on Sterna is stepping in as skipper to Auckland.

“I am truly gutted to have to pull out of the race due to personal family medical reasons, but the race continues and I have full confidence in the team, and our first mate, now skipper for leg two, Melissa du Toit, to take Sterna safely to New Zealand in good time, ready for leg three.” RUFUS BRAND – ORIGINAL SKIPPER OF STERNA

Both Explorer and Sterna are now out of the rankings for Leg two as outside assistance is not allowed under the Notice of Race. This means they are still in the event and make their way to Auckland where they will once again be racing for Legs three and four.


The city of Auckland and TĀTAKI AUCKLAND UNLIMITED are gearing up to welcome the OGR fleet and counting the days. There’s one particular stopover event that will prove extremely poignant. Auckland and New Zealand have a long, personal, and deep historical tie to the Whitbread Round the World Race. Auckland first served as a Whitbread stopover as far back as 1977 and now with seven former Whitbread yachts amongst the thirteen-strong OGR fleet, history will be recreated once again as they race into the City of Sails and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The OGR finish line is right in front of the RNYS for people to watch easily from shore.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread the OGR is hosting a Whitbread Reunion on January 11th, 6pm – 8pm, Wynyard Pavilion, Auckland. ALL veterans are invited!

A similar event was held in Southampton at race start and saw the largest gathering of Whitbread Veterans in sailing history. Some 83 veterans from 38 yachts spent the evening reminiscing about their adventures.

The first yachts are expected into Auckland in the middle of December and restart date for Leg three is January 14th 2024.


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