Solo sailor faces last obstacle

Russian solo sailor Fedor Konyukhov is facing his last challenge before successfully circumnavigating Antarctica: the desolate Kerguelen Islands.

This lonely outpost of penguin lime and French climatologists lies in the path of Fedor’s 85ft boat.

‘We are sailing in a very powerful weather pattern that pushes us to E-S-E. The sea is getting very rough. The wind force is not a problem but if I sail too close to the northern side of Kerguelen Island I will experience very high seas on the shoaling. If I dive to 50S I get gale force head winds south east of Kerguelen. There are not many options. The plan for the next 24 hours is to sail as close to the wind as possible but the boat gets plenty of kicks from the sea with rolling seas crashing on deck. ?

‘During the night I had a problem with the staysail furling line, which has chafed and jammed in the block at the bow. I didn’t notice it until nightfall when the wind had increased to 50 knots and I tried to furl the staysail in. This 70sq m sail is like a piece of stiff plywood in these winds and low temperatures. Working on the bow with zero visibility when the boat is constantly crashing into waves is dangerous so I left the sail unfurled until morning. It would normally be a simple job to replace the furling line, but working on the bow in these conditions was like riding a wild mustang and took 3 hours. Now the technical side is under control. The weather is not. I hope my weather man Lee Bruce can push the right buttons and get a better forecast!’