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31 March 2005, 05:07 pm
Approaching Cape Town
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

After tricky variable winds last night ranging from "0 - 35 knots" according to Team Stelmar skipper Clive COSBY, the fleet is trucking along in strong winds from the west and the lead yachts are now less than 1000nm from Cape Town.

'We've had thunderstorms and dead calm,' continued COSBY. 'Boat speed has therefore varied from minus one [backwards] to twelve knots down the line. We have had to react accordingly and are changing sails and reefs several times during the watches.'

According to Laurent PELLERIN aboard Barclays Adventurer, there were 'fifteen sail changes during the night' and wind speeds changed rapidly. 'We find ourselves with all our biggest sails in gale force winds and breaking waves,' said PELLERIN, '[then] go to all our smallest sails, and the wind drops to nothing while we struggle against some remaining huge waves.'

However, while the workload does not seem to relent, the sea temperature has risen noticeably as the fleet climbs north - 'It's not as cold when it smashes you in the face', said Imagine It. Done. skipper Dee CAFFARI (GBR).

Team Stelmar is in fifth place this morning; 61nm behind first place Imagine It. Done., and crucially only 2nm behind Pindar, fighting for fourth. The variable conditions have been frustrating teams with rivals close behind so this morning's steadier winds will be a relief, but lighter conditions are on the way.

'As Cape Town draws closer we are locked in battle with Pindar,' continued COSBY, 'only a few miles separate us. Imagine It. Done. is doing a good job out in front and Spirit of Sark with BP Explorer are between us and a much sought after podium place.'

'We have just passed the 1,000nm to go mark and are on port headed towards land, that is a nice thought. We expect the current 25-30 knots to continue for most of the day before easing and backing to lift us towards Cape Town.'

The top three are only separated by 21nm - Imagine It. Done. now only 9nm ahead of second place Spirit of Sark. The lighter winds expected may well make the tensions worse if the teams bunch up further and provide an opportunity for Spirit of Sark and BP Explorer to close in on Imagine It. Done.

'We want to make some more westing in our track,' said CAFFARI in an interview this morning, 'but at the moment we are all tracking north, and that's where Spirit of Sark has pulled back some miles in recent scheds [position reports] because they are actually a little further west. The wind is due to lighten off again this afternoon … so we will have to keep our wits about us as we go into yet another light patch.'

Dan Wedgwood. Image, Team Stelmar:© Challenge Business
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