Throughout this race and especially since the South Atlantic, Club Med, the ever relentless leader, has never left center stage nor Grant the footlights.
Rare are the times the winds haven't blown in their favor. "In the right place at the right time, " said Elena Caputo, convinced that the angels were on their side. But now, thanks to a light breeze, a rather sluggish wind, the grand master of the glide, the fastest catamaran in the world, has logged the second lowest average speed over the last 24 hours. Team Legato doesn't easily give up her last place. What's stolen the limelight for the time being from Club Med's men is the maelstrom developing around Team Adventure and Warta-Polpharma.
"We'll be getting 30, 40, and 50 knots of wind for a few days, perhaps more," Cam Lewis wrote in a telex to race headquarters tonight. He's describing the worst that the Pacific can deliver. The Fifties seem to have been unleashed and the tension aboard the catamaran has gone up accordingly. "The tranquil sailing of recent days is a distant memory." And the conditions are such that sailing right now in the Pacific at 54° South is more like "flying an airplane in a washing machine," Cam added . . . Aside from the winds which are beginning to build, there's the ever present threat of icebergs : "We're ready for anything but, to quote Jules Verne, one is never prepared well enough. We're maintaining a constant watch on deck for growlers as well as monitoring the radar." In most unpleasant sailing conditions, Team Adventure and Warta-Polpharma are facing a war of nerves in a game in which they trade places all the time. Warta yielded her place at 11.00 pm GMT only to take it back. At the 4.00 am GMT fix she was in third place again. The two boats are engaged in a thrilling pas de deux in a Pacific which tonight is proving formidable: "It's tonight that they could find themselves in the most dangerous conditions," said Denis Horeau at race headquarters. The two boats have altered course toward the northeast while being driven by a northwesterly that looks as though it will back west. The low speeds posted for the last hour (15.5 knots for Warta-Polpharma and 16 knots for Team Adventure) say a lot about the strength of the wind which has forced them to slow down significantly.
At the head of the fleet, Innovation Explorer is still pushing toward the Equator at a lively pace. She logged 20 knots and with 502 miles, registered the best distance run over the last 24 hours. Club Med is several hours from hooking into a depression to her north which should allow her to break away conclusively from her rival. "If Dalton can catch the depression which is developing, he'll get the benefit of an essentially southwest tradewind instead of the usual northeasterlies. Low pressures located this far south, like those forming now, are relatively uncommon in the Atlantic, " Elena explained, somewhat dismayed, no doubt, to think of Club Med taking advantage of that in the next few days . . .
Ranking (24/02/01 03:00:00)
Name Speed DTF DTL
1 Club Med 14.0 2744.3 0
2 Innovation Explorer 17.4 3460.4 716.1
3 TeamAdventure 19.3 9061.9 6317.6
4 Warta Polpharma 17.2 9063.3 6319
5 Team Legato 11.0 10222.6 8078.3