After 24 days in the lead, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron with Campagne de France dropped back to second place in the double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race (GOR) handing pole position to Ross and Campbell Field and BSL at 03:00 GMT on Saturday morning. While the Franco-British duo has been preoccupied with preserving their boat, including a mast climb in rough conditions by Merron, the New Zealand team increased their lead to five miles by 15:00 GMT. With the exception of Nico Budel and Ruud van Rijsewijk in fifth place with Sec. Hayai, the main pack of Class40s are into south-east headwinds with Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in sixth place with Phesheya-Racing reporting gusts over 31 knots.
Since Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon in third with Cessna Citation first entered the headwinds on Wednesday, the spread in the second wave of Class40’s has compressed by 80 miles as the high-pressure system blocking their route squeezes the four boats together with a 270 mile spread at 15:00 GMT on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, Ross and Campbell Field and BSL were back in the lead for the first time since exiting the Mediterranean on the third day of Leg 1. “It's a great feeling, but the battle will continue to the finishing line,” commented Ross Field at noon on Saturday. “Me old mate, Halvard, is not going to give up, that’s for sure, and the next six days are going to be full of drama, no doubt.” The father-and-son team are in good shape for the remaining 1,300 miles to the finish. “We have heaps of food; haven’t broken anything, touch wood; our wet weather gear is working, but our only complaint is that it's bloody cold,” he comments from 31 degrees South. “You get into the bunk with all your thermals on, boots on and wet weather trousers on - pulled down to the knee because it’s too much hassle to take them off - then cover yourself up with a sleeping bag and nod off to sleep.” Sleeping in soaking wet kit is far from ideal: “When you wake up two hours later, there’s steam rising from the bunk - just like a rugby scrum in the middle of winter and the smell isn't that good.”
While the Fields lead the GOR charge towards Cape Town, 70 miles to leeward of BSL, Mabire and Merron were fully occupied on Campagne de France. The Class40’s spare wind instruments had broken loose from their masthead fitting after days of continuous whiplash and by Friday morning, the carbon wind wand had slipped between the mast and the main halyard. If the duo needed to put in a reef and lower the mainsail, the wand could potentially jam the mainsail, damage the mainsail cars or destroy the masthead electrics.
Someone would have to go aloft: “We waited until nearly sunset when the sea state had improved somewhat, though still bouncing around in waves and difficult to stand without holding on,” reported Miranda Merron on Saturday morning. “You can imagine what the motion at the top of the mast 19 metres above the water was like.”