In the end it was just a bluff! Loick Peyron had no other objective than to instil sufficient doubt in the minds of the sailors aboard Club Med to encourage them to stop.
As the islands of New Zealand disappear over the horizon at high speed in the wake of the two giants, a sharper scent of rivalry than usual is hanging over the South Pacific. With confidence boosted by her performance in the Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea, Innovation Explorer is piling the pressure on the leader Club Med. A leader with men and material in perfect condition, already victorious after the Atlantic in her hard fought duel with Team Adventure, and who is today challenging Peyron and his crew on the playground of all the dangers, the Pacific Ocean.
"Finally, the Cook Straits cost us 170 miles", announced Grant Dalton, skipper of Club Med. "The price to pay for greeting my home country and catching a glimpse of my family." Nicely settled in a strong Westerly flow circulating around latitude 47° and 48° South, Club MEd has gleefully re-entered the reality of the Southern Ocean with, "Damp atmosphere on board", continued Grant, "we've got the oilies and ski masks out, and my cup of tea takes on the salty taste of the spray too quickly." On a South-easterly heading, Club MEd has skirted the little island of Chatham to the South. The sea is indeed a little confused, but the wind is nice and steady in strength, opening up a boulevard for Grant Dalton and his boys, more concentrated than ever and determined not to give up a single inch.
Innovation Explorer, as predicted by Skip Novak, was hardly slowed down at all as she passed between the two main islands of New Zealand. Surprised by a 50 knot squall off Cape Farewell, the crew even had to furl the main and continue under gennaker alone. Loick Peyron is pursuing a South-easterly heading for the moment fairly similar to Club Med's, but slightly freer, at a wind angle favouring more speed. On a starboard tack beam reach, he is also heading for the "Southern Ocean Motorway". A type of sailing that they will have to get used to.
We know that Innovation Explorer's suit of sails is not as complete as Club MEd's and more fragile. So they will be seeking to take the wind from abeam as often as possible, favouring speed, even if it means sailing longer distances. The Swede Roger Nilson, navigator on board, whom the "Frenchies" affectionately call "Uncle Roger", is expecting strong winds in the Pacific. Once again they are going to need to keep the boat's power under control and not be overwhelmed by speed. The sanction is often immediate; for instance this morning, during a violent gybe, they broke 3 mainsail battens.
Team Adventure joyfully continues to play the little game of "leap low". The wind is currently from the South and Cam is skirting the low barring his route round by the North. Still very fast, the American is also covering a lot of ground compared with the leading pair. The gap behind the leaders is not reducing by that much.
More than ever in the race, joyful and motivated, the men aboard Team Legato firmly believe in their chances in the race as they chase up the wake of the Poles on Warta-Polpharma. Their nice straight course, thanks to a well established Westerly and their exhilarating surfs on a flat sea, puts them in the advantageous position of hunter. Carried along by the trailing edge of a low, Tony Bullimore is getting set to negotiate, without easing up, the next low pressure system. A system that Roman Paszke's boys seem to have found at last. Sailing to the North of the Kerguelens, they have altered course to the East, on the edge of the anticyclone. Tomorrow they will be caught up by the depression and they should be able to start to feel the effects of a strong North-westerly, good for speed. In the Indian, as in the Pacific, the giants of The Race are continuing to do battle mercilessly.
Ranking (04/02/01 15:00:00 GMT)
Name Speed DTF DTL
1 Club MEd 22.0 10458.9 0
2 Innovation Explorer 23.2 11107.3 648.4
3 TeamAdventure 23.2 14747.8 4288.8
4 Warta Polpharma 15.0 15547.1 5088.1
5 Team Legato 16.0 16710.3 6251.4
Great Pictures now online from Giles Martin-Raget , PPL and Carlo Borlenghi