Skippers and crew in the Clipper Round the World Race are reefing the mains of their yachts as they crash upwind through the brutal waters of the Southern Ocean, all gunning for the port of Albany, Australia.

It’s in the middle of Race 3 and the sailors are getting what they wished for on mountains of liquid and howling winds.

“Yesterday was the most full on day with spinnaker that we’d had yet,” reported second place skipper Dan Smith. “After initially swapping the sails due to noticing some rips, the wind built and was strong all day, reading 25 to 35 knots on our instruments.”

Others, like Garmin skipper Ash Skett, running far south of the fleet in a strategy designed to catch the heaviest weather, found himself and his crew wrapped in levels of wind and water they had not quite anticipated.  Caught in the middle of a squall, the sailors endured massive hailstones and 70 knot winds.

Over on Mission Performance, about 80 miles north of Garmin, skipper Greg Miller reported being in the midst of  heavy winds, reefing the  main on an hourly basis.

For the non sailors, reefing means pulling in the main sail and lashing it around the boom, which shortens the sail and reduces its area. This provides just as much speed without all the troublesome knock downs, violent jibes, dismastings and capsizes associated with having too much sail aloft in heavy weather conditions.

All the boats report surfing in such conditions. Some of them surf for minutes at a time. Smith reported surfing from wave to wave, essentially skipping along on the surface, his crew working like fiends to keep the boat pointed and the sails set properly.

It’s not yet over for the teams as they all settle in for the Ocean Sprint, which sits just 340 nautical miles ahead of the lead boat, LMAX Exchange. From there the teams will be running wide open for Albany.

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