Round the world record crews face dangers of ice in the Southern Ocean

Spindrift 2 and IDEC Sport are dodging growlers and icebergs in the Southern Ocean as they race round the planet

Just two weeks after starting off Brest, the crew of maxi trimaran Spindrift is in the Southern Ocean and dodging ice on their attempt to break the non-stop round the world record. Yann Guichard and his crew are a little way behind the record time as they gybe downwind trying to avoid the dangers of ice, but some hundreds of miles ahead of Francis Joyon’s crew on IDEC Sport.

Crewmember and campaign head Dona Berterelli reports:

‘For 36 hours we have been sailing in an ice zone. Satellites can only detect the presence of icebergs that are at least 100m long. For safety reasons, Yann has decided to keep 50 nautical miles away from any ice in our way; the largest detected so far is 400m.

‘He has also set up a watch system, day and night, where we take it in turns to spot growlers, the blocks of ice that are smaller than an iceberg but still many tonnes, drifting on the surface of the water. There’s daylight at 1am, so, the binoculars replace the infrared glasses. The atmosphere on board is studious and focused.

‘The sea is grey, milky, like a high mountain lake. It is cold, inside and out, but Thierry warns me, this is nothing still. In a few hours, the wind is going to strengthen, this time from the south, straight from the polar ice, and we will feel the full power of the Southern Ocean.

‘I never take my gloves or my woolly hat off. Even to sleep. Everyday tasks like washing a pan or the dishes remind us that the water is 3 degrees. It’s impossible to brush your teeth without fearing for your enamel. You have to warm the water up.

‘The birds have become more numerous and seem to be heralding the approach of the Kerguelen islands. Our route will take us very close to there perhaps. We’ve been at sea two weeks now and to see a bit of land, would be very welcome.’

Joyon’s crew meanwhile report that they are stuck between two depressions, and are also in the middle of an area of icebergs and growlers. ‘The crew is watching with great care, observing a continuous radar watch and studying the latest satellite pictures the area obtained on land by router Marcel van Triest.’

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