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19 May 2005, 05:14 pm
Have The Leading Teams Broken Through?
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

Yet again the top of the table has changed overnight, this time in SAIC La Jolla's favour. Their course to the east of the fleet appears to have given them the edge.
10nm off the pace yesterday afternoon they are now in first place and enjoy a rare, if marginal, cushion of 6nm over second place BG SPIRIT. They took the lead early yesterday evening and gradually stretched their advantage overnight.

Of the leading pack, Spirit of Sark has suffered the biggest loss, slipping from joint first with BG SPIRIT to fourth place, but crucially a frustrating 19nm off the pace they were setting just a few hours ago.

Barclays Adventurer is following in SAIC La Jolla's path to the east of the fleet. The same breeze that has allowed SAIC La Jolla to march into the lead seems to have also given Barclays Adventurer the opportunity to reclaim 10nm and move from eighth to sixth.

Yesterday, SAIC La Jolla skipper Eero LEHTINEN (FIN) explained that their move to the eastern flank was not really an intentional tactical ploy. 'To be honest, we didn't really make a move, we just ended up here, it was a wind-angle thing and we were a bit worried,' he said. 'But so far we are still alive, although who is going to get out of here first is still an unanswered question. Maybe by tomorrow we'll know who's who in the zoo!'

Despite being situated approximately 7º north and well within the area traditionally associated with the light winds of the doldrums, many teams maintained an average speed of more than nine knots in the period from 0142 GMT to 0742 GMT.

There have been continuing reports of squalls passing through and sudden downpours of warm rain. While the rain does not seem to bother any of the crew, still revelling in the luxury of wearing shorts and t-shirts on deck, the rapid change in wind direction and strength associated with the squalls is what causes the problems, including ongoing problems with spinnaker damage for some...

Now though, the wind has shifted round to the east and leading teams are hoping they have left the worst of the doldrums behind. Furthermore, many spinnakers have been dropped and replaced with headsails as teams progress steadily on a broad reach. However the re-emergence of the 'yellow sails' may not mean they have seen the last of the doldrums just yet.

'After a difficult 24 hours hoisting and dropping spinnakers in the changeable winds of the doldrums,' wrote BP Explorer's Naomi CUDMORE today, 'we are now heeled over with the yellow sails up, almost for the first time since Cape Town, and a steadying north-easterly is carrying us towards Boston.'

'After repeated drenchings in the heavy downpours alternated with unbelievably sweaty kite packs below decks (five alone last night in the 37°C heat),' continued CUDMORE, 'we are hoping that we have finally clawed our way out of the doldrums; we should know if this is the case by the end of the day.'

Dan Wedgwood. Image, The new leader in full flow:© Challenge Business
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