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16 May 2005, 12:18 pm
Equator Crossing Imminent For Front-Runners
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

With boat speeds dropping marginally overnight as winds ease, BG SPIRIT has still managed to pull ahead of the rest of the fleet. They are now sitting 15 miles ahead of second place BP Explorer, but due to their southerly position, look unlikely to be the first boat to cross the equator.
Despite having led the fleet for the past few days, it looks like BG SPIRIT may not pick up the accolade of crossing the equator first as, although the most westerly team, they are further south than BP Explorer, VAIO and SAIC La Jolla, which currently lie second to fourth respectively.

'As of 0600 UTC morning,' says Challenge Business Sailing Manager Cal TOMLINSON, 'the ITCZ (InterTropical Convergence Zone) which is usually situated at a latitude of around five degrees north seems to be very small. As the week progresses there will be a windless area extending from the African coast westward which could possibly impede the progress of the second half of the fleet.'

'For the moment it seems as though the first five to seven yachts can look forward to a swift passage through this potentially frustrating area. The yachts that transit this area quickly can in turn look forward to a swift overall passage - once through they can look forward to 1500 miles of reaching across the north east trades.'

'Traditionally, the western route through the ITCZ is generally favoured, however, with the St. Peter and St. Paul waypoint to be kept to port, yachts are having to play the middle ground.'

With the strong downwind conditions still persisting, an incident occurred onboard Team Stelmar yesterday which saw bowman Julian SMITH (GBR) sustain minor injuries during a dramatic spinnaker drop. Skipper Clive COSBY (GBR) reports, 'The wind, at about 20-25 knots, shot to 30 then 35, it had hit more quickly than expected. The boat rounded up violently before the kicker could be blown. The kite, now flogging wildly as the apparent wind had increased to around 40 knots, was shaking the pole and whole rig…'

'Bowman, Julian SMITH was lifted off his feet to the limit of his lifeline and was flipped around the guy, the Flanker pulled tight as it refilled but was held by his lifeline, trapping him…in the dark and confusion and what seemed an eternity a watch mate grabbed his knife and cut through his safety line as others held him down.' Despite the shock of this incident the team have nevertheless recovered quickly and have in fact seen their position in the fleet improve - overtaking Spirit of Sark to move into fifth place.

Kate Hayler (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Aboard Team Stelmar:© Challenge Business
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