Konyukhov surrounded by ice - Antarctica Cup race

Google Earth Image - 29/02/08. Antartica Cup Race track
Day 33: 'Four icebergs in four days -- I've never seen this many during three previous circumnavigations' Russian solo sailor Fedor Konyukhov reported this week from deep in the Southern Ocean after completing his first month trailblazing the Antarctica Cup Racetrack.

'Another large iceberg sited in position 54.99S and 122.73W today. It's becoming very scary to sail in these waters! The 10 mm alloy hull plating on my yacht Trading Network Alye Parusa is not the best shield against compressed ice. The sight of my first iceberg excited me earlier this week. This was something new - a different shape on the horizon. The second and third icebergs brought some safety concerns but today's sighting confirms to me that I am surrounded by drifting ice traveling NE. I am crossing their path in a SE direction.

It is very hard to spot icebergs on the radar. I have spotted the first four visually. Even when I knew their bearing, they were still hard to recognize on the radar screen. In a storm or high seas, the chances of spotting one are very slim.

The situation is also complicated by Cape Horn ahead. I need to dive south for another 150 miles to clear the Cape and Lee Bruce, my weather router wants me to be on 56°S by tomorrow to have the best set-up for making this rounding into the South Atlantic. I was progressing SE all night until iceberg number four. Now I have headwinds from ESE. I tacked and have come up on a NNE heading until the wind shifts to the west and will continue to hold up to 54-55°S because of the ice conditions.

When I am facing a storm, the forecast gives me a good idea of wind force, direction, wave height and period. With icebergs it's a lottery. Have I been lucky? How about last night. It was pitch dark, foggy and raining. With my 1 million-candle power torch I could hardly see the bowsprit, which is only 15 meters ahead. The chance of spotting an iceberg even just 100 meters ahead is zero.

According to the Routing Southern Pacific chart -- I am only approaching the boundaries of drifting ice but the map is 10 years old and with global warming, is not valid any more. During previous expeditions and voyages I have been witnessing the effects of global warming first hand. Last Spring, at the finish stretch of a dog sled expedition on the west coast of Greenland, we had to travel 10 kilometers over rocks and gravel. A decade ago that area had been covered by a thick ice cap and the glacier was dropping directly into the ocean. Here in the Southern Ocean I can see that Antarctica is rapidly losing its ice shield on a large scale.'
Regards, Fedor'

Forecast from Lee Bruce of Tactical Weather: As the low passes north of Fedor, the wind will fill in from the SW quadrant for a couple of days, before shifting to NNW ahead of the next front on the 2nd of March. As the wind shifts over the next several days, Fedor should find that his position is near 56°S. That's OK, since we need to have him near 57S for the Cape Horn passage. But given the recent iceberg sightings, that is not a position that allows for relaxation no matter the weather. The problem is that to be far enough north to lessen the iceberg threat, puts Fedor too far north to reliably make a heading for passing Cape Horn. Aiming WP: 55° 30'S, 115° 00'W

Dateline 29th Feb 2008 -- 06:00 UTC
Position: 54° 37'S 122° 13'W
Course: 22° Speed: 4.5knots Distance covered 5.600 n.miles


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