2022 GGR / Unusual conditions in the Southern Indian Ocean; Abhilash fixes a windvane problem on the Bayanat
By the end of November, updates from the website of the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR) included mention of unusual weather conditions in the southern latitudes popularly known as the Roaring Forties.
The portion of our planet between latitudes 40 and 50 degrees south feature strong westerly winds. In the Age of Sail spanning the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries when merchant ships executed the passage from Europe to the spice markets of South East Asia, they courted these winds. The Westerlies were also critical for crossings of the vast Pacific Ocean. The website of the US-based National Ocean Service explains the Roaring Forties so: “ The Roaring Forties take shape as warm air near the equator rises and moves toward the poles. Warm air moving poleward (on both sides of the equator) is the result of nature trying to reduce the temperature difference between the equator and at the poles created by uneven heating from the sun. This process sets up global circulation cells which are mainly responsible for global-scale wind patterns. The air descends back to Earth’s surface at about 30 degrees’ latitude north and south of the equator. This is known as the high-pressure subtropical ridge, also known as the horse latitudes. Here, as the temperature gradient decreases, air is deflected toward the poles by the Earth’s rotation, causing strong westerly and prevailing winds at approximately 40 degrees. These winds are the Roaring Forties.’’
The above phenomenon of air warming near the Equator, rising up and then descending at 30 degrees latitude is experienced in both the southern and northern hemispheres. However, the presence of major landmasses in the north prevents the wind from building up strongly. The southern hemisphere has comparatively less landmass in the said latitudes save portions of Australia, New Zealand and South America. As the latitudes converge in the southern hemisphere towards Antarctica and the South Pole, the Roaring Forties are followed by the Furious Fifties and the Screaming Sixties; the adjectives at play conveying the nature of conditions felt. Over the past several years, there have been reports of the Roaring Forties shifting further south owing to global warming.
In its update of November 28, GGR said that while of late, the race leaders have improved their daily mileage with Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa (currently in second place) even touching 219 miles in a day, such fast passages took a while to happen. Conditions in the Atlantic were not what the participants expected to get and the same appears the case as regards the Southern Indian Ocean. “ This year, an unusual Atlantic polar vortex is contributing to a weather anomaly which is pushing the usual strong westerly winds of the Roaring Forties further south than usual. Some high-pressure systems are also lower than normal, pushing the roaring forties toward the furious fifties,’’ the GGR update said. This may slow progress toward Hobart as the fleet experiences more of a mixed bag of wind directions and strengths. “ The good news is that some of the intense low-pressure storms may also stay below their route to Hobart and later Cape Horn. Only time will tell, but sailing along the 40th parallel of latitude looks like a different ride this year,’’ the update added.
As of the evening of November 30, India’s Abhilash Tomy was placed third in the race; in first place was Simon Curwen of the UK. The leading three boats were all in the Southern Indian Ocean, way down south from the Indian peninsula, their line of sailing pointing straight towards Tasmania and Hobart. In his weekly satellite conversation with the race organizers on November 29, Abhilash said that he had faced a problem with the Bayanat‘s windvane. The servo pendulum shaft holding the rudder sheared off. He managed to repair it. He also admitted to a case of painful ribs following a slip and a fall onboard but said it was manageable. “ At least, its not getting worse, that is a good thing,” he said. the next major objective, Abhilash said, is to get past Amsterdam Island. “ I just want to cross that point. That is a big hurdle mentally for me,” he said. Back in 2018, following mishap and injury at sea, Abhilash had been rescued by a French fisheries patrol boat and brought to Amsterdam Island. The island, which is almost equidistant from Madagascar, Australia and Antarctica, is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
2022 GGR / Abhilash Tomy in fourth place as race enters Indian Ocean
Abhilash Tomy, the lone Indian participant in the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR), was placed fourth as the fleet of competing boats entered the sea off Cape Town, South Africa. On November 13, the race’s live tracker showed Abhilash’s Rustler 36 sailboat located straight below the southern tip of Africa, in fourth position overall. From here, competitors move into the southern Indian Ocean. British sailor Simon Curwen continues to be in the lead; he crossed the Cape Town photo gate on November 6. A report dated November 9 on the GGR website, said of Abhilash, “ His latest tweet suggests he is battling with the mind games of watching the leaders sail away and the others catching up.’’ When reported on this blog in October, Abhilash was in third position. The November 9 GGR report placed him fifth. A subsequent video of him and his sailboat, Bayanat, from near Cape Town (posted by GGR), mentioned that their progress had been delayed through getting stuck in a region of calm. The live tracker of November 13 showed that Abhilash had improved his standing to fourth. The race spanning several months is still in its early phase. While for some of the participants, the first stint of sailing through the Atlantic Ocean is now behind them, they have the southern Indian Ocean, the vast Pacific and a second sailing through the Atlantic ahead.
In the earlier-mentioned video from the Cape Town photo gate, available on GGR’s Facebook page, Abhilash has expressed unhappiness at how the race has unfolded. His main complaint appeared to be inadequate information regarding the weather and the location of other participants. According to him, participants had a different experience in 2018 (in which edition of the race, he did well till an unfortunate accident terminated his voyage in the southern Indian Ocean) and the 2022 edition, the way it was playing out, appeared more a “ rally’’ than a race. “ The key element is that there is no racing, it is just luck. If you are lucky, you get ahead,’’ he could be heard saying. Asked if the boat was in good shape, Abhilash replied, “ no problem.’’ He said that he intended to continue with the circumnavigation but may go silent. GGR entails a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the planet in a sailboat. The current edition of the race commenced on September 4. Technology levels permitted for participant sailors and their boats, have been largely pegged to what prevailed in 1968-69, when the first GGR was held. The first GGR was won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who completed the solo non-stop circumnavigation in 313 days. Abhilash is the first Indian to do a solo, nonstop circumnavigation in a sailboat. He achieved that distinction in a voyage that started from Mumbai on November 1, 2012 and ended on March 31, 2013.
World Mountain & Trail Running Championships / Indian runners finish 64th and 77th
Indian runners placed 64th and 77th at the first World Mountain & Trail Running Championships held over 3-6 November, 2022, at Chiang Mai in Thailand. As per results available on the race website, in the short trail race, Sampathkumar Subramanian finished in 64th position covering the course in 4:23:40. Kieren D’Souza placed 77th with timing of 4:43:24. With six runners not starting the race and one courting DNF (did not finish), 84 runners completed the race in the men’s category. The short trail race was won by Stian Hovind Angermund of Norway (3:08:29), followed by Francesco Puppi of Italy (3:11:47) and Jonathan Albon of Great Britain (3:13:05). Besides the short trail race, there was the long trail race, uphill mountain race and up and downhill mountain race plus a junior category in the last-mentioned discipline. This was the inaugural edition of the championships which combine mountain and trail events into a single weekend of off-road races. It was originally scheduled for November 2021 but got postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was organized by World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) and International Trail Running Association (ITRA), along with World Athletics and Tourism Authority of Thailand. According to a January 2022 report in trailrunner.com, the new biennial event replaces the World Mountain Running Championship, World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship and Trail World Championship.
(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)