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17 March 2005, 11:41 am
Slow Going
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Oryx Quest 2005

Both boats left on the Oryx Quest have been making slow progress in their race to Doha.

Team Daedalus has had a frustratingly slow 24 hours as they sail up the coast of Argentina. After strong headwinds the wind has died away completely leaving a glassy smooth ocean with barely a cats paw rippling the surface. In the last 24 hours the big multihull has made good only 137 nautical miles towards Los Lobos Island.

Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his team sailed almost 180 miles through the water, but they were chasing breeze all over the ocean and the distance to the turning mark off Uruguay remains a painstaking 800 miles.

'There is not much we can do about it,' BULLIMORE said in a satellite phone call. 'There is simply no wind around. The water is calm. It's very beautiful, but not good for racing.'

During Wednesday night they sailed past the place where Cheyenne lost her mast more than a week ago. 'It's strange how different the conditions are for the three Oryx Quest boats,' BULLIMORE continued. 'When Doha 2006 passed by here they were sailing consistently over 20 knots. Cheyenne also had good wind but we have nothing. Not a breath.'

BULLIMORE reported that all was well on board. The crew were relaxed and happy to be around Cape Horn and out of the freezing conditions of the deep south. Despite the anticlimax of rounding Cape Horn in the middle of the night too far from land to see even the loom of the lighthouse, the crew were proud of their achievement. Later in the day BULLIMORE sent an email. 'The barometer has dropped, but there is still no sign of any wind in the immediate future,' he wrote. 'But we are looking forward to turning east and chasing Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his Doha 2006 crew across the Atlantic. By then the bigger cat will most likely be in the lighter winds of the Indian Ocean which will give the trusty Daedalus an opportunity to narrow their 3,600 mile lead.'

THOMPSON and his team on Doha 2006 also had a relatively slow day by their standards, covering 421 miles. At the 0700 GMT poll on Thursday morning the Qatari cat was sailing at a sedate 10.2 knots. They are still flirting with the fringes of two high pressure systems that are working in tandem to give Daedalus an opportunity to catch up. 'We are threading our way between high pressure to the north and the Antarctic convergence zone to the south,' THOMPSON said in a satellite phone call. 'It's a gap about a hundred miles wide. We can't afford to go north otherwise we will run out of wind, and we don't dare go any further south. We have just enough wind to keep on a steady easterly course.'

He then added wryly. 'We would look pretty silly if we ran into an iceberg right at the moment with a lead of almost 4,000 miles, so to minimize the risk we are trying to stay in the flatter seas and lighter winds. We will be a little bit slower getting to Doha, but a lot safer.'

At the same 0700 poll Doha 2006 was exactly 750 miles due south of Cape Town. The forecast has not changed since yesterday as Doha 2006 leaves the effects of the high pressure in the Atlantic and sails into the effects of another high pressure that remains stationary south of Madagascar. Being on the south side of the high they are sailing in steady westerly winds and THOMPSON and his navigator, Will OXLEY (AUS), are hoping to ride the fair winds until they are beyond the high when they can slingshot north up the Indian Ocean. It is tricky sailing and a somewhat risky move. If the high drifts east it will continue to block their way north and they will be trapped. 'If the high does move to the east it's going to force a hard decision on board,' THOMPSON said. 'We may just have to bite the bullet and harden sheets to pass to the west of the system. This will mean strong headwinds, but sometimes that can't be helped.' The next 24-hours are going to be interesting for Doha 2006.

Both BULLIMORE and THOMPSON took time to congratulate French sailor Bruno PEYRON and his crew on Orange II on their magnificent nonstop circumnavigation. Orange II set a new around-the-world record of 50 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds.

'Bruno has done a consummate job of choosing the right boat, the right crew and sailing with speed, precision and control for 25,000 miles,' THOMPSON wrote in his daily log. 'Having been a watch captain on Cheyenne, I was co-holder of the record for about eleven months, but knew that the record would not last for ever. However we never expected it to come down so much in one fell swoop. On board Doha 2006 we have four of the Cheyenne crew: myself, Damian [FOXALL (IRL)], Jacques [VINCENT (FRA)] and Fraser [BROWN (NZL)], so congratulations from all of us to Bruno and the crew of Orange II.'

On board Daedalus watch captain and co-navigator Nick LEGGATT (RSA) was also part of the Cheyenne record breaking team and he too sent his congratulations to PEYRON and his team.

Brian Hancock. Image, Sunset Aboard Doha 2006:© Quest International Sports
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