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16 March 2005, 12:33 pm
A Delicate Balance
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Oryx Quest 2005

Doha 2006 is 250 miles west of the longitude of Cape Town after crossing the Greenwich Meridian and re-entering the Eastern Hemisphere yesterday. They are currently sailing along the 45th parallel, skirting under a ridge of high pressure that has blocked a direct route to Madagascar, the next major milestone in the race.
It is a delicate balance: to the north the winds are light and variable; to the south is an area littered with icebergs. Skipper, Brian THOMPSON (GBR) is well aware of the dangers. 'The water temperature overnight plummeted from ten to six degrees centigrade,' he wrote in his log. 'We are fast approaching the Antarctic Convergence zone, the area within which the majority of the 'bergs live out their last months. Just a few minutes ago we gybed towards the north at 45.5 degrees south and we are waiting for the anticipated 30-degree veer in the wind that will take us on an easterly track for the next 1,800 miles. This should keep us in water temps between nine and five degrees so there will be an iceberg risk, but to the north of us there is high pressure so we are threading our way between the ice to the south and the calms to the north.'

The anticipated wind shift came on cue and Doha 2006 changed course, however it did not last for long. Three hours later the big cat gybed back onto starboard gybe and headed south once more.

As expected the weather situation in the Indian Ocean looks complicated and the trip north is going to be difficult for Doha 2006. Now that they have been forced south by the ridge of high pressure in the Atlantic, they find themselves under a second area of high pressure, this time in the Indian Ocean. The barometric pressure is already at 1,025 millibars and it is expected to rise quickly as the high expands. To add insult to injury the system is moving slowly to the east on a parallel course to the Qatari catamaran. Right now a direct route north would mean strong headwinds along the east coast of Africa. As THOMPSON puts it: 'Beating for 2,000 miles is certainly the worst choice we could make at present. If we have to beat in a gale we could do it, but it's not the best way to get to the finish in one piece.'

On the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his team are beating their way north in a gale caused by an intense low pressure coming off the coast of Argentina. The speeds on board are in the low single digits as the crew baby the boat through some rough weather. The memory of what happened to Cheyenne is still fresh in BULLIMORE's mind and Daedalus is only 65 miles south of the spot where Cheyenne's carbon mast took a tumble. At one point during the night the speed on Daedalus dropped to just 2.1 knots.

Brian Hancock (As Amended By ISAF). Image, A Reflective Moment On Doha 2006:© Quest International Sports
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