The wind has gone light and variable for the leading yachts in the EDS Atlantic Challenge and the conversation has turned to food. Lack of food on-board and a bounty of food just over the horizon on land.
High pressure brings easy sailing and allows the crews to dream of that first meal on land. It's the classic end of passage dichotomy. Up until this point you do not allow yourself to even dream about that first cheeseburger, but now with the miles whittling away it's okay to imagine one in your hand. The cruel reality, however, is that there is very little to eat in your immediate future as supplies on most boats are nearly depleted.
"We have got a bit if an issue with food," said Ellen MacArthur aboard Kingfisher. "We have run out of freeze dried." It's uncharacteristic for MacArthur to bring up food before discussing weather so it's safe to assume that there really is an issue with lack of food on-board, however the lack of edible eats must be tempered by the knowledge that among the fleet, Kingfisher will likely be the first to taste fresh food. MacArthur and her crew have open up a sizable lead on the fleet and if the wind gods are kind they could be sitting down to a prime-rib dinner within 24 hours. At last poll Kingfisher was 267 miles from the finish line and the boat speed had picked up to nine knots.
High pressure has overtaken the fleet and while the weather is beautiful for vacationing, it's frustrating for sailing. "It's a beautiful morning out here, but we are stopped in the water," said Mike Golding, skipper of Ecover. He was clearly frustrated. "This high pressure is not where it's supposed to be." Golding remarked that their food situation would become an issue if the wind did not pick up soon, otherwise he was pleased with the way his boat had been victualed for the leg. "We ran out of treats back when the weather was bad, otherwise we should just make it," he said.
Further back Javier Sanso, co-skipper aboard Gartmore said toilet paper, or soon to be lack thereof, was their only real issue. "We are all thinking about our first meal on land," he said. "In fact it's pretty much all we are thinking about these days and it seems as if everyone wants pizza."
The high pressure that has the fleet in its grips is forecast to move east during the day bringing wind as it goes. It may become another case of the rich getting richer as the yachts further to the west can expect to be released from the high first, and the westernmost boat is the leading boat, Kingfisher.
The weather might still play a card before Kingfisher crosses the finish line off Norfolk, Virginia. Commanders weather, the experts who advise the fleet on developing weather systems sent the following email to the yachts. "An unusually strong low will form just off the Virginia coast late Sunday night, early Monday morning. This low will track northeast with a good chance of developing gales." MacArthur has been eyeing the developing system. "The finish of any race is always complicated," she said.
For her nearest rival, Sill Plein Fruit (Gael Le Cleac'h), it may be even more complicated. Still without their Solent headsail they will not be able to sail upwind in moderate conditions and with Ecover just 37 miles behind them the second place slot is still up for grabs. Skipper Gael Le Cleac'h was not available for comment.
Leg 4 starts on August 6, 2001 and sails to Boston. The final leg returns to St. Malo, France where the first yachts are expected to finish the race between August 22 and August 24. The EDS Atlantic Challenge website www.edsatlanticchallenge.com is an innovative and interactive resource for rankings and breaking news.
At 10:56 GMT, on a distance to finish (DTF) reading, the positions were as follows:"
1st Kingfisher (Ellen MacArthur - UK) DTF - 243 miles
2nd Sill Plein Fruit (Gael Le Cleac'h - FR) DTF + 191 miles
3rd Ecover (Mike Golding - UK) DTF + 235 miles
4th Gartmore (Josh Hall - UK) DTF + 479 miles
5th AlphaGraphics (Helena Darvelid - SWE) DTF + 1004 miles
Fila (Andrea Scarabelli - IT) not racing
" to new finish line off Norfolk
Complete position information including updated latitude and longitude can be found at www.edsatlanticchallenge.com/positions
Radio Interview Extracts
Ellen MacArthur, Kingfisher. "If we play this next low pressure right I estimate that we could be finishing tomorrow afternoon, probably late."
Mike Golding, Ecover. "Thirty seven miles in these conditions is a couple of days sailing."
Javier Sanso, Gartmore. "We have been talking about how good it's going to be eat, sleep and shower when we get it."
Helena Darvelid, AlphaGraphics. "It's very frustrating watching the first boats near the finish especially when we have so many more miles to go."