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11 March 2005, 01:23 pm
"A Wall Of Turquoise"
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

Sailors on the Global Challenge are having a tough time in the southern oceans. Gale force winds are making for very rough seas as the fleet continues to head south.

'There was a wall of turquoise and I called ´wave´ about a second before it hit...' Samsung skipper Matt RIDDELL (AUS) describes the rough conditions. 'I'd say that we are experiencing the biggest seas that we have had thus far on the Global Challenge... In the last couple of hours we've had some of the biggest waves we've seen.'

RIDDELL phoned in this morning and described a 'wall of turquoise' crashing over the yacht, which he only spotted just before it struck. 'You get the occasional wave that comes through that is about twice as high as the average wave height,' he said. 'One flattened the main sheet trimmer and myself on the wheel, there were a few ropes strewn about the place but everyone's OK.'

Reports from the fleet all describe the sea state as 'rough' or 'very rough' in the last 24 hours - a result of the depression, which has moved in from the west and brought gale force winds from the west-northwest.

As a result the yachts are hard on the wind - a bumpy ride even in lighter conditions. 'The wind is in the northwest and it's driving the fleet south,' according to RIDDELL this morning, 'in about 24 hours the wind should back to the south-west, which will allow boats that have travelled south to go north again and return to the Great Circle Route... it's about 35 knots, but the apparent wind gusts up to about 44.'

BP Explorer is still out in front, now 10nm ahead of second place Imagine It. Done. with Barclays Adventurer is 18nm behind in third. Samsung are back in seventh, 41nm behind the leader, but happy with their position considering their slow start to the leg.

'Out of Sydney we had a really disappointing start,' said RIDDELL, 'it was very hard to get into it - we were in twelfth place by the third sched - [now - Ed] we're averaging about sixth or seventh place having come from a long way back so it's pretty encouraging and there's a lot of race left!'

Approximately 4,300nm of racing left in fact and plenty of time to regain ground. In terms of life on board for the crews, the current wind angle is taking the fleet deeper into the southern ocean so the plummeting temperatures are making a tough job even tougher, especially in high winds.

Looking back at previous races, the fleet is already almost as far south as the most southerly point reached in the 1992 British Steel Challenge - British Steel reached 55.23°S and VAIO are currently at 54.50°S. In 1996 Concert went deepest, to 55.40°S and in 2000 overall winners, LG Flatron, were the furthest south of the fleet when they reached 55.35°S.

As it gets colder and colder for the crews they will be looking forward to the wind backing to the southwest and lifting them north, something they would probably choose over the record for the Global Challenge yacht furthest south in the southern ocean.

Dan Wedgwood (As Amended By ISAF). Image, On Board VAIO:© Challenge Business
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