BP Explorer has sacrificed the lead in leg four of the Global Challenge in a tactical gamble on the approach to Waypoint Bravo, just north of the Kuergelen Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean.
In anticipation of the strong winds from the southwest that will soon fill in as a conventional Southern Ocean low passes under the fleet, they headed south to line themselves up for the mark.
The southwesterly winds will lift all the teams on the racecourse on the run in to the psychologically and tactically significant waypoint. David Melville (GBR), skipper of BP Explorer, clearly believes his former position would have left him sailing too far north, and therefore further from the great circle route to Cape Town that will take the fleet south again after rounding the mark.
'We have purposefully cashed in our first-place position,' reported Naomi CUDMORE (GBR) from BP Explorer today, 'getting some south in, hopefully to better set ourselves up for that 2,500-mile-long line to Cape Town. Whether or not this relatively bold move pays off will be impossible to determine until we finally round Bravo - probably on Monday.'
So the waiting game begins for BP Explorer and BG SPIRIT before finding out if a southerly position will win out round Waypoint Bravo. BP Explorer is clearly in the favourable position in second place, further west and hoping to regain the lead. But BG SPIRIT will be hoping to improve their tenth place when the winds from the southwest lift them up to the mark to start the second phase of the leg.
Pindar was formerly one of the most northerly yachts, before deciding to head further south in anticipation of the shift. Skipper Loz MARRIOTT (GBR) explains: 'We have southwesterlies arriving … and we want to stay with them as long as possible taking us to the waypoint. The further south we can get the 'freer' the subsequent angle we can achieve. After Waypoint Bravo there seems to be a dominating high sitting near it, so the further north you are now will most likely affect how close you get to the centre of the high once round the waypoint.'
It has been a profitable day for Pindar; the afternoon poll shows they have overtaken Barclays Adventurer and moved into fifth place, now only 38nm from the front runner.
At the top, first placed Imagine It. Done. has pulled ahead of former leaders BP Explorer by three miles since this morning's poll. They are starting to see the shift before yachts to the south, and have stronger winds from just south of west already as a result. This will level out when the low-pressure system passes the fleet and the strong winds from the southwest fill in.
With more rough conditions on the way, crews will be steeling themselves for another bout of big seas.