domenica 27 maggio 2012

Very mixed fortunes for the Global Ocean Race fleet

At the front of the Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough have made a breakaway with Class40 Cessna Citation as they close into 340 miles of the bluQube Scoring Gate at 49W and in third place, the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing have made good gains following a bold move north and have been polling solid speeds making the best of the light headwinds and playing the Gulf Stream current. For Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo in second with Financial Crisis, to the south of Cessna Citation, late Friday night and early Saturday morning was a slow start to the weekend as the Italian-Slovak duo watched Colman and Cavanough stretch away, building an 85-mile lead by the afternoon and adding 50 miles to the distance deficit in 24 hours. Astern of Financial Crisis by 177 miles at 15:00 GMT on Saturday, Nannini and Frattaruolo have witnessed their lead over Phesheya-Racing drop by 18 miles as the South Africans continue to make gains on the Italian-Slovak Class40.

Meanwhile, in fourth place, 381 miles behind the leading Class40, the Dutch father-and-son duo of Nico and Frans Budel have been dogged by light airs with speeds starting to drop at 21:00 GMT on Friday night and falling to below two knots at around midnight as the Budels lose their grip on Phesheya-Racing with the South Africans adding 92 miles to their lead in the past day and building a lead of 119 miles over Sec. Hayai by Saturday afternoon.

At 15:00 GMT on Saturday, Cessna Citation was averaging 7.4 knots: “We’re back to bouncing our way across the ocean, like Tigger in the Pooh stories,” reported Colman late on Friday night. “We caught a nice push from the Gulf Stream again and, like Tigger, things have become bouncy, trouncy, flouncy and pouncy, but not quite as fun, fun, fun as the orange tiger,” adds the overall race leader.

After eight months of racing around the world and with just under 3,400 miles remaining to the finish of the circumnavigation in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, it has been an immensely long journey for the 28-year-old Kiwi skipper: “During the course of this long race, many have asked if I get bored as we while away the hours,” says Colman. “Despite very little of this race being ‘Life at the Extreme’ like the Volvo Ocean Race YouTube videos suggest, there has been very little boredom,” he confirms. “This is because there is almost always something to do, from defining the routing strategy to maintaining the boat, to eating, sleeping and then actually trimming and helming.”

Colman does have one diversion: “However, to keep my mind active on subjects beyond the next wind shift, I have found refuge in podcasts,” he reveals. The electronic archive on board Cessna Citation is highly civilised and includes Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. “His soft deep voice is perfect for story telling during a night watch and his updates from Lake Wobegon's Lutheran Church are a surprisingly good accompaniment for a starry sky,” adds Colman. During the stopover in South Carolina, though, a disastrous download choice was made: “However, in Charleston, I loaded up my iPod with the New Yorker from 2008 which is giving me nightmares because they talk about President Bush in the present tense!” reports the horrified skipper. “I had hoped to never hear those two words again!”

While Colman comes to terms with memories of the Bush administration, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are polling the best speed average in the fleet at nine knots with Phesheya-Racing. “As the wind dropped on Friday, we decided to make a break for the north to try and get back into the core of the Gulf Stream,” explained Nick Leggatt. “For much of the day we were successful, polling some of the best average speeds of the fleet, assisted by as much as 3.9 knots of warm NE flowing water.”

However, at around 23:00 GMT, the duo noticed a rapid change: “At sunset the water temperature suddenly dropped five degrees within minutes and at the same time the current shut off completely as we sailed over the ‘North Wall’ of the Gulf Stream,” Leggatt continued. The ‘left-hand-side’ of the current is relatively easy to locate. “The north wall is always clearly defined as it is dictated by the bathymetry and the effects of the Labrador Current,” says the South African skipper. “The south wall is more difficult to define as it is characterised by eddies that spin off into the central Atlantic,” he warns.

The effects of the North Wall were felt immediately: “The cold water also caused an instant chilling of the air and we immediately tacked back towards the SE, quickly getting back into warmer, more turbulent water, but also almost immediately seeing the current increase to over two knots again!” Since tacking back onto port, Phesheya-Racing was soon averaging over eight knots.

For the Budel’s on Sec. Hayai conditions have not been so favourable with speeds remaining sub-three knots on Saturday afternoon.  “We’re looking out for fresh breeze and sailing upwind in the Atlantic Ocean,” confirmed Frans Budel: “Another day, calm and quiet on Hayai. Not much to do, cleaning a little, fixing some ropes and making some small sail repairs,” reported the Dutch skipper on Friday evening. By Saturday morning, conditions had not improved: “We had a very, very bad night!” reported Frans Budel on Saturday afternoon. “We had little or no wind this morning and right now we’ve got about five knots to deal with.”

Watching their isolation increase is becoming tough for the Budels. “We  see the miles grow between us and Phesheya and Cessna and Financial Crisis and it’s getting to feel like we’ll never catch them again,” admits Frans. “But we have to deal with it and we make the best of it, athough it is difficult sometimes!” he confirms. “I hope the westerly breeze arrives soon so we can get the speed averages up, otherwise you might have to reschedule the prize giving in Les Sables by a week or so – just kidding!”

GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 26/5/12
1.    Cessna Citation DTF 2372 7.4kts
2.    Financial Crisis DTL 85 6.2kts
3.    Phesheya-Racing DTL 262 9kts
4.    Sec. Hayai DTL 381 2.7kts

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