The first eight days of the final leg of the Global Ocean Race (GOR) from Charleston to Les Sables d’Olonne have tested the four double-handed Class40s. The fleet crossed the start line in South Carolina and sailed directly into the teeth of a storm with conditions that some crews described as the worst in the entire circumnavigation. While the majority of the fleet opted to sail in the 50-mile wide corridor between the Gulf Stream and the coast of the USA, one team – Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo – headed directly into the current and took a battering in demanding conditions as the northerly wind and north-flowing current churned into a mass of steep, short seas, but the Italian-Slovak duo’s bold eastward course won Class40 Financial Crisis the lead.
Inshore, conditions were barely any better and the group of three Class40s – Cessna Citation, Phesheya-Racing and Sec. Hayai – beat northwards, finally peeling away from the coast at Cape Hatteras and entering the Gulf Stream as the storm abated. Nannini and Frattaruolo held onto the lead for four days, but Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough were unstoppable with their Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation and took pole position with a split beginning to develop with the two leading boats pulling away as Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt with Phesheya-Racing in third and the Dutch father-and-son duo of Nico and Frans Budel on board Sec. Hayai in fourth battled with light and variable headwinds as the fleet raced through the Gulf Stream.
At 12:00 GMT on Sunday, the Budels were back up to speed as the entire fleet raced off the wind with Sec. Hayai averaging 11 knots and digging into the 145-mile lead built by Phesheya-Racing as the Dutch Class40 remained near-static on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, 168 miles ahead of the South Africans, Nannini and Frattaruolo on Financial Crisis are hanging on to Cessna Citation with grim determination, trailing the Kiwi-Australian duo by 89 miles at midday on Sunday as Colman and Cavanough close in on the bluQube Scoring Gate with just 180 miles remaining to virtual line running through the North Atlantic.
As Cessna Citation approaches the scoring gate 370 miles due south of Newfoundland and beyond the southern limit of the Grand Banks, the motion on board is causing problems for Scott Cavanough: “Typing on the computer has become difficult even in calm conditions,” admitted Colman’s 30-year-old, Australian co-skipper as the boat starts hitting averages of over 11 knots. “The computer screen has died, so picture that I’m lying flat on my back, feet up in air to hold the back of the nav station open with one foot, and the other foot to stop it from rotating,” explains Cavanough of the contortions needed to use the boat’s articulated chart table. “Sorry for typos as I can't really see what I’m typing,” he apologises. “This task is made even more difficult by the Gulf Stream waves and slamming in a flat bottomed girl like Cessna is never fun.”
At midday GMT on Sunday, Hutton-Squire and Leggatt were averaging just over eight knots with speeds rising after a difficult Saturday: “Late afternoon we did a series of tacks as the wind shifted around between the big black clouds,” explained Phillippa Hutton-Squire late on Saturday evening as a heavy downpour enveloped Phesheya-Racing. “The temperature dropped off and we sailed out of the Gulf Stream again.” With the unstable wind direction, the South Africans went hunting for some favourable current: “The wind shifted around to the north, so we hoisted the Code Zero and eventually the wind increased and we headed north-east again to try and find the Gulf Stream again.”
However, the wind continued to frustrate the duo: “The sun set and we hoisted the A4 as the wind had shifted to the north-west,” Hutton-Squire continues. “There wasn't quite enough wind, so we dropped it before we wrapped it around the spreaders and hoisted the Code Zero once more.” While the South Africans shuffled through their sail wardrobe, Hutton-Squire made an unusual discovery: “As I went on deck to drop the Code Zero, I noticed that the bow was covered in black stuff,” she reports. “We must have been hit by a squid. There was ink all over the place.” We have picked up a bit of the Gulf Stream again now as the clouds have disappeared and it is certainly helping us to push on towards the gate.
With weather files finally beginning to reflect reality, the westerly breeze is forecast to turn northerly over the next 24 hours and may provide the fast reaching conditions the teams have been waiting for
GOR leaderboard at 12:00 GMT 27/5/12
1. Cessna Citation DTF 2228 11.1kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 89 8.1kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 257 8.2kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 402 11kts