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Saturday 3rd December 2011

Friday morning, November 25, day 4. We have now done 1,000 miles down the track to Virgin Gorda, with around 1700 to go.

We have been close to Indio on the water since the start, and ahead on corrected time, but last night we had a horrendous time escaping across the frontal system in our path. We were becalmed for some hours in the rain, and lost around 55 miles to Indio.

We are into the new breeze now, and making 10 knots down the track in 12 knots of wind, with the big A2 spinnaker and mizzen gennaker set.

Hetairos seemed to transit the front yesterday without slowing, and has been posting speeds of 17 knots, but despite that seems to be struggling to save her time on handicap.

To our north, Grey Goose has certainly hit the corner. Too early to say how that will turn out for them.

To the rest of the fleet behind, we wish them a slow, wet passage across the front. Sorry!

Spirits were raised this morning with a full English breakfast. The famous Sojana diet continues regardless of conditions on deck. We have four freezers stocked with the finest produce from the markets of France and Spain. Two legs of Spanish Bellota ham swing gently from the deckhead in the galley. The wine cellar is fully stocked, even if most of the crew are abstaining so far. There is some speculation on deck regarding dinner tonight. Will it be Dover sole or cod and chips? Mmm.

Today will see the launch of our second profiler. This one will be launched by Peter Harrison himself.

This requires a little explanation. Every year on Sojana we try to have a positive initiative with regard to the environment. One of our early projects was biocide-free antifouling. To be honest, the first application was a disaster. So we scraped it all off, and tried again. Version 2 is now well into year 2, and is working well. The hull finish is good, growth can easily be wiped off, and any damage can be touched up when the boat is hauled. We expect this finish to last as long as ten years before replacement.

Last years project was proposed by one of our regular race crew, Alexia Barrier. Alexia is president of 4myplanet, (, a charity which aims to promote environmental awareness and research. We fitted a thermosalinograph to Sojana. This is quite a small device, fitted in the bilge forward, which continually pumps seawater past a number of sensors when Sojana is on passage. Currently, we measure temperature and salinity, but more functions can be added as required. The data is recorded along with date, time, Latitude and Longitude  etc, and is then copied to various research agencies. It is relatively simple to do, yet the cost of obtaining this data by conventional means, ie a research vessel, would be considerable.

This year, Alexia insisted we raise the game (she is very persuasive), and deploy Argo Profilers. These are quite complicated bits of equipment, about two metres long, and 20 kilos in weight. They are launched over the side of the yacht. They float for a few hours after deployment, then they gradually sink to 2,000m, then rise again. All the time they are gathering data on temperature and salinity at varying depths, and transmitting this by satellite to researchers on surfacing. They continue to sink and surface on a ten day cycle for two years, until they are recovered and refitted or recycled. This project is coordinated by  Coriolis, a pan-european research agency. ( We have four profilers on board, which will be deployed between Tenerife and Virgin Gorda.

So, win or lose in the yacht race, on Sojana we always have a full stomach, and a warm feeling inside that we are contributing to the global challenge of ocean preservation!

Thanks to our owner, Peter Harrison, for his ongoing support , enthusiasm and funding, and thanks to Alexia, for driving the program with such passion and determination.

Any owners or captains interested in turning their superyacht into a part-time research vessel can contact Alexia at for advice.

Marc Fitzgerald
Captain, SY Sojana

Update:  Sojana was the third yacht to cross the line, finishing off of Virgin Gorda in the very early hours of December 3.  With some yachts still to finish, Sojana was standing in third place on corrected time behind Hetairos and Inidio.  However, now that all yachts have finished, Sojana has been bumped out of the top three positions.  However, Marc Fitzgerald, while disappointed with Sojana's finish after leading the fleet on corrected time for much of the first half of the race, was very pleased with the event.

“As the only yacht to have competed in every edition of the Maxi Transat, we are pleased to see that the quality and quantity of this year’s fleet should establish the event as a regular fixture in the super yacht calendar.” commented Marc Fitzgerald, captain of Sojana. “Congratulations to the team on Hetairos for creating such a beautiful yacht, and on such an impressive scale. We are of course disappointed to have such a slow finish after leading the race on corrected time for most of the first 2000 miles, but we are looking forward to arriving at the new YCCS clubhouse in Virgin Gorda.”

Sojana was presented a special prize for competing in all four editions of the race which started in 2007.  Congratulations to owner Peter Harrison, Captain Marc Fitzgerald and the entire Sojana crew.  We look forward to welcoming you back to Antigua!

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