Week 3, 1999
Location: Falkland Islands and Ushuaia, Argentina
The start of our next leg to Ushuaia was one of the more special starts for us. Most of the 1500 people in Port Stanley gathered at Victory Green for the event. The government gave the workers the afternoon off and school was let out early. Real old time cannons were used to signal the starting sequence. Just after the five minute signal, the wind swung180 degrees and went from 3-5kts to over 25kts providing the spectators with some fast action crew work by all the yachts. This leg can have some of the worst sailing out as the prevailing winds are strong westerlies. In the old days, ships would leave Port Stanley only to return after months trying to get around "The Horn." Some of those ships actually gave up and sailed around the world the other way adding tens of thousands of miles to their journeys just to avoid the trip. We were lucky enough to have picked a good weather window, with northeast breezes for the first two days as a low pressure system moved in to the south. Our timing was great - the low passed over us just as we were going through the Le Maire strait, a treacherous pass between Tierra del Fuego and Isla Estados. Standing waves of over 10 meters caused are not uncommon for the area, making it impassable at the wrong state of tide. As the low passed over we sneaked through the Strait under motor with 3kts of breeze. The passing of the low pressure then brings the usual southwest wind reaching 45kts as we entered the Beagle Channel on our way to Ushuaia. We sailed as far as we could before motor sailing the last 30 miles directly into the wind, west towards Ushuaia. Many of the other yachts didn't have the same luck, having to anchor just off Isla Estados for two days as the weather and waves made the Le Maire strait impossible. Our arrival in Ushuaia was done in ski goggles, our first time for this piece of clothing, as the wind and spray gave us only limited visibility - like being inside a washing machine! Once in Ushuaia, the usual scavenger hunt started, looking for last minute parts; barrels for additional fuel and water, ice stakes and other "Antarctic" equipment. Our Mini-M satellite phone also decided to take a shot at burning the boat down as the circuits overheated. This is why we haven't responded to your emails or updated the website!! Bill's Christmas presents still haven't caught up with the boat, we're still waiting. We were very careful, trying to be completely prepared for our Antarctic journey as we'll be alone most of the time. We had a last minute briefing from Skip Novak, the Whitbread skipper, now Antarctic charter boat owner. Skip has just returned from Antarctica as pilot and guide for a large Australian boat and provided us with some last minute advice on weather, ice and such. The fourth week saw the start of the greatest leg of the rally, ANTARCTICA!!
Photos of Falklands start and Ushuaia