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24 May 2005, 12:36 pm
SAIC La Jolla Steals The Lead
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

SAIC La Jolla has moved into the lead overnight and are now holding a 14 mile advantage over second place BP Explorer. The top seven yachts are more spread out now, but still within 30 miles of each other and with a new weather system impacting on the fleet, two distinct packs are emerging.
A westerly pack is forming closer to the rhumb line whilst two yachts, first place SAIC La Jolla and fourth place BG SPIRIT are further east.

This split will be no doubt causing headaches for onboard tacticians as they decide which course will help them make best speed for Boston, USA. For David MELVILLE (GBR), skipper of overall leading yacht BP Explorer, covering rivals Spirit of Sark and BG SPIRIT is a key concern, 'The two boats are rarely in the same place at the same time and as a result present a continual headache to us. Where best to place yourself to cover two boats 80 miles apart?'

'What I would really like is a fast-forward button,' MELVILLE continues. 'Let's skip all the waiting and agonising and find out what happens at the end. That way we could all just sit back and relax. In the absence of that I must wait six hours at a time to see who is a winner and who the loser.'

The current southerly wind is set to veer to the south west, then veer again to the north northwest and later go very light. 'This predicted scenario will favour the westerly yachts,' says Challenge Business Sailing Manager Cal TOMLINSON. 'So I will take a punt and say look out for big gains over the next three days for VAIO, Spirit of Sark, Team Stelmar, BP Explorer and Barclays Adventurer. This will be at the expense of SAIC La Jolla and BG SPIRIT who have strayed a little far from the Great Circle Route in the hope of finding tail winds on the eastern side of a Low Pressure System currently in their path. The next two to three or even four days will probably be a significant period in determining the outcome of this leg - critical mass time.'

Meanwhile, the teams bringing up the rear of the fleet are struggling and have all lost a significant amount of ground overnight in an area of very light winds, which unfortunately for them, looks set to hamper them a while longer. Imagine It. Done. skipper Dee CAFFARI (GBR) wrote, 'For all the mileage we have been covering daily we had a harsh reality check yesterday. The wind speeds dropped to less than ten knots, which wouldn't even cause a ripple with our Challenge Class Flag, let alone push a 45 tonne steel Challenge yacht downwind.'

Despite this current setback for some of the teams, this leg looks set to be one of the fastest on record, as Global Challenge Project Director Andrew ROBERTS comments, 'With less than 2000 miles to go, the first yacht's VMG (velocity made good) is currently 9.03 knots and the last yacht 8.55 knots which is amazing after three weeks at sea and equates to well over 1,500 miles a week.' If this pace continues, the first arrivals could be crossing the finish line in Boston towards the middle of next week.

Kate Hayler. Image, Things are looking bright for leaders, SAIC La Jolla:© Challenge Business
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