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28 May 2005, 09:54 am
Maximus Ahead
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Rolex Transatlantic Challenge 2005

At the front of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge fleet, the riveting match race between the two Grand Prix class maxis suffered a blow on Thursday, with Maximus extending its lead on Mari-Cha IV.

Mari-Cha IV' suffered damage to her headboard car and mizzen luff track as reported by her owner Robert MILLER yesterday. With the breakage snowballing, the crew was forced to stop the boat yesterday to effect repairs. 'We just had to bite the bullet,' recounted racing helmsman Mike SANDERSON. 'We literally stopped the boat for twelve hours, and for a few of them, we were going the other way.' Having cobbled together every spare piece of wire on board, they made a long extension cable, and with two men up each mast they set about redrilling and tapping the mast tracks back on as another team repaired the mainsail's headboard.

At 1800 GMT on Thursday night, the work was complete, and they were back on course, although SANDERSON admits they are not pushing as hard. As a result, the position reports on Friday were showing that Charles BROWN and Bill BUCKLEY's Maximus had been able to extend her lead up to 141 miles. However after affecting the repairs MILLER says Mari-Cha IV is now back 'at pretty much 100%' and it seems to be showing. The race tracker this morning now shows her less than 50 miles behind Maximus.

The match race between the two Performance Cruising class 1 leaders, Peter HARRISON's Sojana and Mike SLADE's Leopard, has taken both boats far north of the bulk of the fleet, with Sojana (to the northwest) just 75 miles from Newfoundland's south coast. Their crews are hoping that the wind will veer southeast enough to make it around Cape Race and Point Alpha.

About 160 miles south-southeast of Leopard, navigator/designer Gerard DIJKSTRA on Windrose described conditions on board: 'The sails are new, but the load on them in 35 knot gusts, sailing to windward, is awesome. The sails survive. First casualty was the Dorade cowl over the crew mess. That was washed overboard by a wave. The crew mess quickly turned into a real mess with the water pouring in. It is surprising how quickly the interior deteriorates with this type of sailing. Water finds its way to the interior in mysterious ways, and, also, each change of watch brings wet oilskins into the saloon.' As of this morning, the conditions have begun to get lighter for the giant Dutch schooner.

Overnight, the Clarke Murphy-chartered Swan 70 Stay Calm has lost her on-the-water lead in Performance Cruising class 2 to John 'Hap' FAUTH's Whisper. The crew on board the Swan experienced some panic when, at around midnight last night, they ran into a sleeping whale. Although the boat speed dropped by five knots, the collision was not serious, and most of the crew even slept through it.

Like Sojana and Leopard, Stay Calm has been sailing a course well to the north of her competitors. Pried away from his poached egg breakfast, skipper James SMALL described the conditions: 'The wind has gone into the south, so after two-and-a-half days of 25-30 knot headwinds, we have a more relaxed reaching scenario. Everyone on board is well, and apart from now being able to see our breath down below, everything is fine. It was quite warm when we got into the Gulf (Stream); now it is a little on the chilly side.' At the time, they had 16 knots from due south and were heading 060 degrees, making 9.5 knots.

'We are looking forward to a flatter downwind sailing vessel rather than the hectic jumbled up situation we've got at the moment,' continued SMALL. 'We've had things flying, such as the odd drawer and a couple of leecloths blown out. And the forepeak.that is a whole new experience going up there.. But it is nothing out of the normal for going to weather in what was a nice cruising boat.'

Back in the Classic fleet, the boats have been having a tough time of it. 'Wet, wet, wet that's what we are,' reflected Sophie LUTHER from on board Mariella. 'If it's not pouring down, then we're getting drenched by the particularly large and irregular sea out here in the Gulf Stream, but it's definitely worth it.' She added: 'Lightning storms seem to be following us at the moment. Again last night, we had an even worse one, which was actually strangely beautiful, with sheet lightning flashing horizontally across the sky and then bolt lightning hitting the water, uncomfortably close. Squalls came through, with the wind going from nothing to 25 knots and hailstones.'

At present, A. Robert TOWBIN's Sumurun is leading the Classics both on-the-water and on handicap.

100 years ago, on the sixth day of his voyage on board the schooner Atlantic, Frederick HOYT wrote:

'The balloon main topmast staysail and balloon jib were also set and finally the spinnaker, and with all the light canvas drawing, the ship began to walk off at a nine-knot clip. Afternoon sights put us to the east of our dead reckoning, but that was probably owing to the patent log not registering at the very slow speed we were going previous to the time the southerly breeze stuck in. Between eight in the morning and noon we had covered just four miles. The southerly breeze continued to increase until we were forced to take in the balloon sails and set the working ones in their places. Also the temperature of the water began to go down steadily and quickly and at nine in the evening had reached 35 degrees, showing that we were in the immediate vicinity of ice and presently the lookout saw a good-sized berg about a mile to leeward of us.'

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, On board Whisper 350 miles after the start of the Rolex Transatlantic race:© Billy Black/Rolex
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