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Clipper teams cross the equator

Photo: Chris Paxton

If we thought taking part in a circumnavigation of the world was tough, consider the research team working on Gough Island on the edge of the Southern Ocean - about a thousand miles from Africa. There are nine of them studying the local wildlife. Their supply ship visits just once in a year though they do get an occasional visit from boats from the nearby island of Tristan Da Cunha. No wonder they were keen to have a radio chat with the Clipper Race yachts who were passing by the island.

Credit: Chris Paxton

When my yacht Switzerland went past, the island was shrouded in fog - it reminded me of the mysterious hidden land in the King Kong movies. Gough Island lies just below 40 degrees south of latitude which puts it in the Southern Ocean. Our destination Cape Town is actually closer to the Equator but the Clipper Race fleet have swung this far south to take advantage of the winds generated by an area of high pressure in the South Atlantic. And one thing I can say about entering the Southern Ocean is that it is cold.

On deck, I've been wearing a thick jacket over a fleece with my very thick waterproof gear over the top. The wind can be biting and there's the occasional wet moment when the splash of a wave lands on the deck. If you're wearing the waterproof stuff, you're pretty much protected but a few of us have got soaked when we risked going outside without the right gear on.

Credit: Chris Paxton

Apart from the sturdy souls on Gough island, the only other life we encounter are birds chasing after fish (including an albatross) and dolphins. One morning I was disposing of some biodegradable rubbish over the side when a group of dolphins suddenly popped up a few metres away. For the next few minutes, they kept surfacing around our boat and I managed to get a few shots of them using the boat's video camera.

Credit: Chris Paxton

We have now left the Southern Ocean (though we'll be returning there during the next leg of the race) and are heading towards Cape Town. The Clipper fleet are all very close together so it should be a tight race. In fact, we saw one of our rivals Old Pulteney pass in front of us - unfortunately for them, we also their spinnaker sail suddenly rip under the pressure of the wind and part of it dropped into the ocean. Spinnakers are tricky things to control as we had discovered the night before when one of our sails got caught by a wave and fell into the water. The result was a lengthy repair job for our sail team.

Cape Town is now a few days away - hopefully, it'll be warmer. But there's not likely to be much time for rest and relaxation - we need to start preparing our boat for the long journey to Australia. You can follow me on Twitter

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