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4 December 2004, 04:59 pm
Old Adversaries Do Battle
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

The three-way fight that started when they followed each other through the Canary Islands has not only been rekindled, but is playing out in the podium positions.

Spirit of Sark, BG SPIRIT and BP Explorer are 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively and battling it out for the lead - separated by just 6nm this morning.

During their trip from Portsmouth to Buenos Aires, all 3 went through the Canary Islands in what David Melville, skipper of BP Explorer described as 'a kind of collective madness.' After the tactic did not work as well as they had hoped, the three-way fight that ensued brought some incredibly close sailing and a friendly rivalry between the 3 teams emerged.

This morning Spirit of Sark has maintained her 2nm advantage over BG SPIRIT, followed by BP Explorer, just 4nm further back. However, on day 7 of racing, the whole fleet is still in touch considering there is still just shy of 5000nm to go.

'Unfortunately, by our own measure we are lying in 10th place and have been for several days,' reports Kate Brock from Imagine It. Done. today, 'but we are able to take some solace in the fact that our distance travelled is rarely in the bottom half of the fleet so we know we can make the boat move in light winds and heavier breezes and we are still very much in touch with the rest of the fleet.'

Imagine It. Done. is indeed in 10th place today, but only 55nm behind the leaders, which works out as approximately 1% of the course still ahead of the fleet.

The lead yacht is now around 320nm from Le Maire Strait - a key tactical point in the leg - which could dramatically alter leader board standings. If they judge their passage through the tidal gate well, they will have the tide with them and avoid the extra 70nm it will take to go round. However, if the tide turns against them, significant losses become likely. BP Explorer's Naomi Cudmore wrote about the dangers that will be in tactician's thoughts across the fleet:

'We are fast approaching a key tactical moment in this leg; the Straits of the Maire form a tidal gate which could propel us away from our pursuers or rein us back as anyone in front plunges straight for the Horn and those behind make fast gains on our lead.'

Approaching Cape Horn is obviously at the forefront of many minds as the days count down. At current speeds, the lead yacht will round on Monday evening, coinciding with heavy winds from the west.

However, teams that round Cape Horn later than Monday night may well experience a mild ride due to a patch of light and variable winds predicted at the Horn from Tuesday and expected to last approximately two days. Potentially, only the leading yachts could see the heavy winds, with the majority of the fleet wandering what all the fuss is about!

Understandably, some of the Crew Volunteers seem more than happy with the prospect of light winds. After all, the Southern Ocean is sure to deliver where the Horn does not.

'We are edging ever closer to the famous Cape Horn, writes Ellen Comber, aboard fleet leader Spirit of Sark. 'We are apprehensive, partly because we do not know what we will face.

'Last time Duggie was here, as crew in the very first Global Challenge back in '92, he went past the Horn in light winds and calm seas. I have to admit to hoping that we will face something similar. However, the chances are the waves will rise when the ocean gets much much shallower, hitting the continental shelf after travelling around the world unhindered and will contribute to us becoming wetter and colder than we have been thus far.'

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