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Solo sailor lines up for Antarctic record

Jan 31, 2008 Solo sailing in the Southern Ocean is not a lark, but Russian sailor Fedor Konyukhov (at left) is happy and frying potatoes as he prepares to makes a record attempt at the fastest passage around Antarctica.

From the press release: Following his start from Albany last Saturday, Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is now making good progress down towards the entry point to the Antarctica Cup Racetrack.

His Open 85 'Trading Network Alye Parusa' finally crossed into the Roaring Forty latitudes yesterday after spending much of the previous day becalmed.

Fedor reports "The wind has shifted to the south and is picking up - which is better than the 0-5 knots experienced during the past 24 hours. It's getting cold and I've already got into my polar gear -- a goose down jacket from Russian company BASK. I used this jacket in Greenland during the dog sled crossing last Spring. We crossed Greenland from East to West alongside the Polar Circle with my Inuit friend Hans, at a record time of 15 days. This jacket smells of dogs, snow and the Arctic. It brought back some good memories.

For the first time since the start, I went down to the galley and fried potatoes in the pan. This is my favorite meal and my shore team know that when I cook this, the weather is good and the ocean is smooth. In other conditions it is just not possible to spend much time in the galley.

Have not seen any ships, but last night heard plenty of Japanese over the VHF radio. I had to use my new radar but could not see any vessels within a 16 mile range. Fishermen are a big concern for me. Jon Sanders told me of how he ran into a Korean trawler one night near the Falklands Islands. He was asleep; the boat was sailing on autopilot and hit a trawler, damaging the pulpit and forestay. In the Southern Ocean nowadays, there are more and more ships and you need to keep a constant lookout. Although my yacht is equipped with an Active Echo Radar Detector (an electronic device that sounds a loud alarm in the cabin once it picks up other radar within 5 miles), there are times when fishing trawlers do not use their radar here in the Southern Ocean."

Lee Bruce, Fedor's weather router, has set out a strategy for approaching the Racetrack entry gate. He writes: 'Fedor's challenge over the next 48 hours is to work the weather shifts and strengthening winds to make the entry into the Antarctica Cup Racetrack west of 126E. A high pressure system is expected to move rapidly through Fedor's position (15:00UTC, 30 Jan, 40.732S 123.954E) with the breeze filling in again at 18:00UTC. The better part of wind for 31 Jan will be WNW 20 knots, gusting 35knots. Later in the day and for 1st Feb, the wind will shift to WSW 20-25 knots with squalls. Fedor must be on track for the entry gate before the WSW winds push him too far east.

With 150 miles still to cover before reaching the Racetrack entry, Fedor is hopeful joining the favourable easterly flow of the Southern Ocean within the next 24 hours.