Barclays Adventurer and Imagine It. Done. have been sailing so close to one another the satellite position reports have not had them more than 1nm apart for 30 hours.
Yesterday afternoon they were still matching each other, although Imagine It. Done.
had a slight advantage, recording a 2nm lead to lay a fragile claim on first place. The whole fleet will be aiming to sail as far as possible in their present south-westerly direction in the knowledge that the wind will soon back to the southwest.
The shift will prompt a tack and the timing will be crucial. By continuing on their current course they will subsequently enjoy a longer period taking advantage of the southwesterly wind after tacking, lifting them up on the course and allowing them to sail in a westerly direction for longer - a more direct route towards the waypoint.
"We are now waiting for the wind to swing around a little more to the south,"
wrote James ALLEN skipper of Me to You
earlier today, "so that we can tack and make some ground in a westerly direction as the westerly winds have pushed us further south than we would like."
The later they tack, the longer they should, in theory, be able to capitalise on the south-westerly wind, but waiting too long will cost them distance towards Waypoint Bravo. The question of when to tack will be at the forefront of the tactician's minds today. The aim is to sail the minimum distance by taking the more direct tack toward the destination.
Although the area is still dominated by the low-pressure cell to the south, this is now being complimented by the high-pressure system moving in from the west - the cause of the shift. The breeze from the southwest will continue for around 36 - 40 hours, and although the winds have eased at present, they will intensify again in the next 12 hours or so.
The teams will be using the relatively lighter conditions to rest and recharge. David MELVILLE, skipper of BP Explorer
commented earlier: "The last 24 hours have given us a taste of the Southern Ocean. We are beating into hail and winds gusting to 40 knots. In these conditions alertness and attention to safety are a key element of performance."
So it is not only the physicality of the work in high seas that makes this leg so tough, but also the mental strain of racing and staying safe in a potentially hazardous environment.
Considering the conditions, it is not surprising that some of the crew will be recovering from an understandable bout of sea-sickness and looking forward to rediscovering full fitness for the tough month ahead.