At the 13:42 poll, only five miles separated the top seven boats on this fifth leg of the Global Challenge from Cape Town, South Africa to Boston, USA. Team Stelmar and BP Explorer are tied in first with Barclays Adventurer and SAIC La Jolla just one mile behind, Samsung and Spirit of Sark two miles behind and VAIO three miles further back.
Packed together in the increasingly light winds, life will become tense for these teams in particular as any gains or losses will be clearly visible to the crews in sight of their closest rivals.
When sailing upwind, everything occurs at an angle, making even the simplest tasks a conscious effort and movement down below dangerous when the risk of injury in a lurching yacht increases. Now sailing downwind, life on board, above and below decks, is not quite as arduous in some ways.
"Downwind sailing means the boat is a lot flatter which has lots of advantages,"
wrote Susan COOPER from Barclays Adventurer
this morning, "including the use of both heads at watch change so there's less of a queue!"
Commenting on this leg compared to their passage from Sydney to Cape Town through the Southern Ocean, Imagine It. Done.
skipper Dee CAFFARI said quite simply, "The difference is amazing. We are already getting into warmer climates; the air temperature has gone up and the sea temperature has already gone up five degrees.
"Our foul weather clothing is still being worn as we have a fair amount of water over the deck, but it is shorts being worn underneath as opposed to several thermal layers and a mid layer. The watches are taking half the time to get ready to come on deck for their watch, so we are adjusting when they get woken up so sleep time can be maximised, and most importantly the suntan lotion has to be applied liberally to avoid a beetroot face over dinner."
So far on this leg, Team Save the Children
, Me to You
have all experienced the stress of spinnaker damage and are now persevering with the repairs to restore their sail wardrobe to full strength. So while downwind sailing has many benefits, flying the kite demands constant attention. Skipper Dee CAFFARI explains:
"There is a lot to be said for the downwind sailing aspect of this leg. While the yacht is flatter and more comfortable to live on, we are flying the appropriate weight spinnaker for the majority of the time.
"This is great sailing. However, if and when it goes wrong at any time, it normally goes hugely wrong and confidence amongst the crew is very easily lost with a spinnaker trauma. Therefore, it is quite stressful in my position and sleep is a rare commodity. On the plus side though, you get a great tan."