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17 December 2004, 10:43 am
Light Patch Not Enough For Chasing Pack
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2004/2005 Global Challenge
Buenos Aires - Wellington

Teams towards the back of the fleet have made marginal gains on lead yacht Spirit of Sark this afternoon, but not significant enough to worry Duggie GILLESPIE and his crew. It must be frustrating for the chasing teams as the leader keeps the fleet at bay, consistently maintaining boat speed and subsequently their advantage in mileage.

In mid-fleet, however, Me to You in fifth, Team Save the Children in sixth and Barclays Adventurer in seventh have a more immediate task at hand as their three-way fight continues.

They are no longer as close in physical terms on the water; Me to You has headed north, Team Save the Children is on the rhumb line and Barclays Adventurer is now one of the most southerly teams of the fleet. But in terms of distance to leader, they are separated by 6nm: 5nm between Me to You and Team Save the Children, and just one nm between Team Save the Children and Barclays Adventurer. After such close racing for the last four days, all three will be gunning for the short-term psychological boost of coming out of on top.

After Tim JOHNSTON's injury aboard Team Stelmar, apprehension has quite understandably surfaced across the fleet as Crew Volunteers frankly assess the challenge of everyday life in the Southern Ocean. This is intensified in the wildly variable weather, especially when forecasts predict rough stuff on the horizon. Coming off watch for a valuable few hours sleep becomes a happy moment, as Paul SCOTT aboard Pindar explains:

'An ominous air has descended upon the watch about to go on deck. The forecast shows the wind building steeply from the almost nothing we have now to 25 knots in a couple of hours. They know that will mean several sail changes, reefs in and getting wet. No wonder there are few ecstatic faces!'

Mike CHIVERS aboard Barclays Adventurer also described this sense of trepidation, but notes that it is one the central reasons for signing up initially:

'The real adventure begins outside in the wind and rain. You're met with the happy smiling faces of the off-going watch who know the next few hours are going to contain sleep, unless of course they forget to tie themselves to the bed. The foredeck then beckons.

'The next twenty minutes will sap every last ounce of energy left in your body. Have you airborne several times and completely immerse you in freezing salt water. Why, this is the Southern Ocean and I didn't sign up for comfy furnishings.'

Not surprisingly, a Crew Volunteer aboard Team Stelmar, was on the verge of deciding to leave the yacht, with the prospect of an extra two weeks at sea and a whole ocean yet to cross after the difficulties the team has already faced. Clive tells what ended as a fantastic story in his update today:

'Rallying the troops here for an opportunity to seize the moment and cross an ocean together in the face of adversity. We will see how it goes in the next 24-hours - I am hoping all will be onside and we can get to New Zealand a stronger, closer team. No doubt it will be a challenge but if we can adopt a positive attitude and refocus goals we can achieve anything.

'I mentioned earlier a crewmember may be leaving. He has not been himself of late struggling with an injury and feeling miserable. He told me at lunch time he could not face the trip ahead and would fly home and rejoin us with friends and family in Wellington for the rest of the race. He phoned and told his wife afterwards, in tears.

'At supper he was a changed man, full of smiles and merrily pumping the day tank. 'You seem very happy' I said, 'Got an e-mail back from the missus,' he replied, 'she's cancelled my credit card, told me to get on with it'.'

Dan Wedgewood (As Amended by ISAF)
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