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3 November 2004, 10:43 am
To The Wire
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2004/2005 Global Challenge
Portsmouth (GBR) - Buenos Aires (ARG)

After nearly 6,200 miles of competitive racing, only 78 miles now separate the six leading yachts with what must be an excruciating 5 nm between the two leading teams, Barclays Adventurer and VAIO.
However, the leaders had better watch their backs, as the middle pack - Samsung, BP Explorer, BG SPIRIT and Spirit of Sark - are powering towards them and closing the gap with average speeds increasing to nearly 11 knots.

The yachts are currently running parallel to the coast of Uruguay. The border between Uruguay and Argentina runs down the River Plate, so the fleet will pass the Uruguayan capital Montevideo on their starboard side before they reach the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires on the port side. The coastline they are passing is sandy and marshy, and broken by a few shallow lagoons that can be seen in the Race Viewer. The water colour will change as they get closer to the River Plate, which is full of sediment and murky brown in colour.

Some of the crew is itching to see land again, and certainly Greig TAYLOR, a Chartered Accountant from London and crew-member on SAIC La Jolla, is keen for a different view. He writes, "The River Plate should be an interesting experience as it's as wide as the English Channel in parts, so not really a river in that respect, but it has its shallows and usual river obstacles to contend with."

With the yachts in the fleet jostling for position as they approach the entrance to the River Plate, it's hotting up to be a fight to the finish - and the teams are pushing themselves to the limit to keep their yachts racing at full momentum. "Where earlier in the race we may have waited an hour to see if a wind shift was just temporary or not we now change sails immediately if there is any benefit to be gained from doing so. On Saturday alone we managed six spinnaker changes in 12 hours," writes James Davies, a trainee solicitor on BG SPIRIT. "Currently the mood on board is a combination of exhaustion and determination to keep the pace up until the bitter end."

But the race for leg 1 isn't over even after the last yacht has crossed the finish line. This is due to the protest which may be lodged by the Race Committee against some of the fleet for their passage through the Ushant Traffic Separation Scheme. Yachts under protest include Barclays Adventurer, BG SPIRIT, BP Explorer, Team Save the Children, Pindar, Team SAIC La Jolla and Team Stelmar. If the protest is upheld, this could affect final race positions.

This is probably the last thing on the crews' minds as they concentrate on pushing the yachts as hard as they can for the run to the finish line. To leave the final word to David Melville, skipper of BP Explorer, "The die is not cast for another couple of days, you have to keep going."
Event Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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