SAIC La Jolla have arrived in Buenos Aires, crossing the line in 7th place at 02:04:00 GMT. Judging by skipper Eero Lehtinen's account of their journey down the River Plate towards the finish line, it was a windy ride early this morning:
"Mother nature has decided not to let us get out of here without a battle until the very end. We were almost in tears as our beautiful run in 30 knots of wind came to its end, kite came down and wind dropped to 7 knots. The ETA was sliding further away and the beers were getting warm!
"I did a little prayer in front of the weather screen and told John, my co-skipper, that I pray seldom - hopefully it works. And it did, 45 knots of wind came quicker than we managed to take sails down. 2 reefs and only the little staysail were taking us to bar at a speed of 12 knots again! Now we have changed to storm staysail, have no yankee up and are going for 3rd reef as soon as we can. The crew is laughing and working hard - no need to motivate them and they know what they are doing."
Back at race start SAIC La Jolla were among the teams affected by seasickness, with up to half of the crew afflicted.
"Sea sickness has taken a huge toll on the crew,"
explained their first log on day 2, "and the boat is in quite a state. Everyone's exhausted, some a bit bruised, but the show must go on. Quite a reality check to be honest!"
And it wasn't until day 5 that a full recovery was reported: "All is now well on the seasickness front. We are running at a full compliment, with the most visible (and audible) being Sam's full recovery!"
After the storm hit as the fleet passed Portugal, with "big waves and pouring rain"
to the tune of Force 10, SAIC La Jolla made a westerly move as the fleet split into two packs either side of the rhumb line. As they approached the Canary Islands, this proved a wise move as they moved into 1st place on the morning of the 9th day of racing, only to be usurped by Samsung a day later.
They remained in the top three until the fleet converged past the Cape Verdes Islands, when they slipped back to 4th on day 15. However, by day 17 they were back in the lead as they headed down towards the doldrums, where their lead was to slip from their grasp as a windless hole unceremoniously blocked their path south:
"A tough day and night for La Jolla team,"
reported skipper Eero on day 19. "Last night we found ourselves reversing in a NE moving current and no wind at a speed of 1.4 knots over ground in pouring rain and could not do a thing to defend our lead. It was taken away from us in a cruel way and not only by one or two but five boats! Devastating to say the least."
The team did not lose hope though, realising that these things happen in an ocean race: "The way we see it, we have an excellent crew, top skipper, great boat speed, and good grasp of the weather routing, but were just plain unlucky with a windless hole that did not affect anyone else."
On day 20 the effect of the often cruel doldrums saw SAIC La Jolla emerge in 7th place, and they doggedly and consistently held their fleet position all the way until the finish this morning. Even when the extreme weather returned on day 26:
"We are in what can only be described as a real mother of a hum dinger of a storm! Its blowing its bits off out there (technically largest gusts of 42+ knots seen with averages around 30). It's not the intensity of the wind or rain that struck us, but the quickness with which it arrived."
On day 26 Eero gave a brief summary of the leg so far and it was clear that he had developed great respect for a crew that will be raring to go when the fleet leaves Buenos Aires for the 2nd leg:
"I am very impressed about the crew's steep learning curve. I have been passing lots of responsibility early on to my crew and the response is awesome."
Please note that race positions are subject to the outcome of the protest hearing on 10th November