Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties?

The Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties are terms used to describe the intense westerly winds that blow across the southern hemisphere, between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees. These winds are known for their strength and consistency, making them a crucial meteorological phenomena for the southern oceans and for skippers in the Global Solo Challenge.

The Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties are caused by the combination of the Earth’s rotation and the lack of land masses in the southern hemisphere. The Earth’s rotation causes the winds to blow towards the east, while the lack of land masses allows them to build up speed and strength. These winds can reach speeds in excess of 100 km/h and are known to cause large waves and rough seas.

These terms were first used by sailors in the 19th century while sailing around the southern oceans in reference to the loud noise made by the wind as it blew across the seas and against the ships’ sails and rigging.



These winds can be unpredictable and dangerous, and sailors must be well-prepared and experienced in order to tackle them safely. Strong winds and heavy seas can cause damage to yachts and equipment, and sailors must prepare for the possibility of capsizing or being stranded.

Despite the challenges, sailing in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties can also be a thrilling and rewarding experience. The strong winds and large waves provide unique sailing conditions for sailors, and the sense of accomplishment from successfully navigating these seas is unmatched.

To safely sail in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, sailors should plan and prepare. For example:

  • Properly check and maintain all equipment, including the boat’s sails and navigation tools.
  • Train in difficult weather conditions prior to departure.
  • Know the weather patterns and have a plan in case of unexpected changes in conditions.
  • Carry enough supplies and emergency equipment for the expected duration of the circumnavigation on their boat.
  • Have means of communication with the outside world in case of emergency.


Sailors should also be familiar with prevailing weather patterns and seasonal presence of floating ice. This will help to plan an optimal route in relation to winds and navigational ice limits set by the Global Solo Challenge organisers.

The typical water temperature in summer in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties can vary depending on the specific location and ocean currents. In general, the water in these regions is relatively cool due to the influence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which flows around Antarctica and keeps the water temperature low.

In the Southern Ocean, which is the location of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, the water temperature can range from around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius in the summer months. This is significantly cooler than the water temperature in tropical or subtropical regions and can present challenges for sailors who are not properly prepared for the cold.


It’s also important to note that, while summer tends to be the most stable season with the least amount of storms, the water temperature can drop significantly after the passage of a cold front of deep depressions, blowing cold winds and water directly from Antarctica. Sailing in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, one should be prepared for the cold water with appropriate clothing and gear, and be aware of the potential for hypothermia.

Sailing in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties is not for the faint of heart. It requires preparation, skill, and experience. But for those up to the challenge, it can be a thrilling and rewarding experience. As sailors, it is important to take the necessary precautions and be well-prepared for the journey ahead. With the right mindset, sailing in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties can be the experience of a lifetime.