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Just two to go

by John Curnow, Editor, 1 May 22:00 UTC
Jeanne Socrates © S/V Nereida

Just two of the world's great capes to go, then there's a wee 'jaunt' back up the Pacific, and she's done. So that 'she' can only be the almost indescribable gem that is Jeanne Socrates. Accordingly, it all seemed terribly fitting that I spoke with her via satphone on Anzac Day, as she bobbed around hove to (Again! I can hear her say right now as I type) in the Great Australian Bight, for not only was Jeanne in Australian waters, she has a direct connection to the Great Southern Land.

Her father was an Aussie, tragically killed during a WWII training exercise when converting from piloting the Vickers Wellington, to the Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber. Jeanne was just five weeks old at the time. Thing is, she did not find out about it all until only a few years ago when she was laid up in Mexico recovering from that horrific fall on the hardstand that delayed this very circumnavigation she is presently completing.

And I say completing, for if there was ever a soul that had the eye of the tiger, the fire in the belly, the chutzpah to look fate square in the face, and the courage to take on all presented before her, then it is Jeanne. She is right up there in anyone's estimation, and reminds me distinctly of one Jeanne-Claude Strong, for anyone who knows that particular lady's back story.

On this latest of her circumnavigations, Jeanne has been befelled by issues, plagued by weather, and tested time and time again, or is that perpetually? When talking with her in the rolling swells of the Southern Ocean, she had just come to terms with the wind vane steering being destroyed by one of the bridal lines from the drogue that has seen plenty of use this time around. It would appear one of the giant rollers that go through has lifted the line up and over, and when the load has returned to it, bent it terminally, including the pin that holds it in. Jeanne now has to remove it, not easy given the damage, as it is affecting the boat's performance.

Lucky she has a great autopilot, with a whole back up as well, but at 76 years of age, a time when many struggle with a smartphone, she's there sorting out the feeds from all the instruments into the bus, disconnecting them, and then reinstating one by one to see which has caused the autopilot to go down. In a way, she almost has an honorary degree in electrical engineering, and is more than handy with crimpers and needle-nose pliers. Of course, she also knows all her systems on board really, really well.

Remember too, an autopilot needs power, and it is not so flash in a wind change. I do get the feeling Jeanne will be very happy to see the bottom of New Zealand and then turn left... She does have two rams on the autopilot and a full back up, so she can switch if one fails permanently.

Remember too that her main is shredded down the leech from batten to batten. On top of everything else, she has been repairing that with firstly tape, and then a Dacron patch over and around, but it takes time as she is in big seas and needs to push the needle through all that fabric, and have resistance the other side. When she can, her fixed dodger at least helps out with another set of hands, well sort of.

Just in case you had forgotten, Jeanne has also seen the vang explode, the solar power went on the fritz, and gooseneck issues have seen the mast and boom not joined. None of which is particularly handy for sailing. It all means she is running downhill on her headsails, with the trysail lashed. A lot of the time that equates to one or two knots VMG. Not the way to dispose of a lap you'd think.

At the time, Jeanne was at 40 degrees South to stay away from a storm, but so many have also found her. She did not even flinch when asked if she felt she was being asked by Huey for too much to get around her fourth cape, and please consider she was in 6-8m seas with 30-40 knots whizzing around. Yep, that was missing the storm.... Oh yeah, there is also a lot of water down below, because the storm screen does not get it all when the greenies came a knocking.

Jeanne does credit her father's heritage in Australia's Riverina district, along with Melbourne and Sydney connections, as giving her the sailing bug. She is now in contact with a cousin in Sydney, and has a trophy that he won on board with her that they gave her when they all met up.

So yes, the queen of optimism refuses to give in, and not find all the angles when addressing problems. The other stuff she tends to let wash over her, a bit like all those waves... She remains positive about sorting out the autopilot, and if it means no depth, wind speed or the chartplotter up on the binnacle, then so be it. She has a handheld GPS, "...and to keep on going is the plan. It will be just two months to get up the Pacific back to Canada, and the weather will improve after New Zealand.

"Rough weather has been an issue. There were not as many storms in my previous one of 2012/13. I was five weeks behind when going around Cape Agulhas, and we were originally aiming for a finish in May! The drogue has even been a problem, so I will now have to use an old sailbag instead", said Socrates.

Looking back, she added, "The convergence of the Uruguay storms and also Southern Ocean storms meant that the Atlantic was awful. I was trying to round the Horn with Uku Randmaa (who went on to be third in the Golden Globe Race), so we could take pictures of each other, and at nights we would have a round table, as such, with Susie Goodall whilst she was still racing."

Jeanne's circumnavigation, which will mean she is the oldest to do so non-stop and unassisted, is in support of the great work done by the RNLI (Lifeboats), and her website has all the links for donations. Yes I am in awe, I am inspired, and I am also so very thankful to Jeanne for connecting with me when she is enduring great difficulty, and in somewhat horrendous conditions. Thanks! We will all be watching...

Today you will find that we have information for you about the Great Barrier Reef, the ARC, greener products to use on board, Antarctica, the new Jeanneau Sun Loft 47, Mitsuhiro Iwamoto and Doug Smith cross the Pacific well done!, free diving with Orcas in the Arctic, Panama, antifouling, Salty Dawg rallies, servicing your life raft and PFD, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Remember too, if you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the Sail-WorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow

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