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7 February 2001, 09:11 am
Innovation Explorer Closes Up
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How the Peyron Boys aboard Innovation Explorer must be pleased about not stopping in New Zealand! Since they passed through the Cook Straits, The Race seems to be turning to their advantage.
First of all they managed to exit the Straits without a hitch, with plenty of wind and a flat sea, then they were able to quickly latch onto the right weather pattern, which is now whisking them along at high speed towards the 50s. And it looks as if they will be able to remain with these steady strong winds for some time yet.
Aboard Club Med the situation has a more bitter taste. Their rapid descent into the Southern latitudes has led them to the convergence of two low pressure systems where the North-western fringes which were pushing them along yesterday seem to be considerably weakening. Innovation clawed back 80 miles last night! "And it's not over yet!" announced a rather piqued Grant. The morning Telex from Dalton read, "What a difference it can be from one day to the next in this race; yesterday evening I was very satisfied with our position, with Innovation in the North blocked by a depression. And here we are this morning on the edge of two systems, with Peyron racing straight for us carried along by this second depression! Already 80 miles lost and it's not over until this depression catches us up!"

At 25 knots average and some nice peaks at 31 knots, Peyron's big cat is back within a day of the twin transoms of Club Med. On a South-easterly heading, Loick is surfing the depression that is moving along with him but won't catch up Club MEd until tomorrow. Caught up in the ridge, Grant is still having to cope with winds of 17 to 22 knots from the West, but the ridge is keeping up with him. The big cat has gybed and they have decided to point a direct route with full main and big gennaker up. The sea is flat and the crew is not pushing the boat too hard. "By settling ourselves on the route" explained Grant, "we hope to be able to control Innovation and maintain our 600 mile lead. My only worry is this huge bubble that appeared this morning on the weather files and that could, within three or four days block our access to the Horn."

Same ocean, same route, some 590 miles further West, Innovation Explorer is enjoying much different sailing conditions. The anemometer indicated 59 knots in the night! Peyron's men reduced sail by taking in three reefs and setting the staysail. An efficient combination allowing them to maintain good speed, more than 25 knots, and above all they were able to slide along too, despite the "detestable" seaway. In they end they only "went down the mine" twice, and suffered a few knocks for the woman aboard, Elena Caputo, who was thrown against the cockpit side when the boat jumped a wave.

On Team Adventure they are also looking for the way out.. A very Northerly route has thrown Cam into the heart of a very unstable depression and the big cat is struggling with inconsistent winds oscillating between 6 and 20 knots. With every stitch of canvass set, full main and big gennaker, Team Adventure is approaching Cape Leeuwin. A huge anticyclone is clamping down to the South of Australia. The route to avoid it will be anything but straight. But Cam and his crew are being very philosophical about it and like the young Yan Elies, are delighted about still being in the race, convinced that the Pacific will soon offer them the occasion to give another demonstration of the promise we caught a glimpse of in the sail down the Atlantic.

The gap between Team Legato and Warta-Polpharma continues to diminish. "We hope soon to get under 1000 miles", confirmed Tony Bullimore. The Briton has passed Crozet and intends leaving the Kerguelens to starboard. Team Legato is going fast. "We're not pushing the boat beyond her limits" justified 'Good old Tony', "We only have three gennakers on board, all adapted to one type of wind, and we don't want to risk loosing them. The route is still long."

Warta-Polpharma is trying to avoid the centre of a very deep depression forming to the West and could generate a lot more wind than the valiant "little" Polish boat can take. They must first of all get themselves out of the little centres of high pressure that are mining Roman Paszke's route. Lots of manoeuvring in perspective, with the "Tony menace" being taken very seriously by the joyous Poles.

Ranking (06/02/01 15:00:00)

Name Speed DTF DTL
1 Club MEd 20.0 9490.9 0
2 Innovation Explorer 20.1 10113.2 622.3
3 TeamAdventure 5.4 14197.1 4706.2
4 Warta Polpharma 16.1 14874.9 5384.0
5 Team Legato 17.0 15888.8 6397.9
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