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25 May 2005, 10:08 am
Gulf Stream And Weather Determine Strategies
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Rolex Transatlantic Challenge 2005

Thankfully, the severe winds forecast on Monday have not materialized for a majority of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge fleet. However at the front line honours favorite Mari-Cha IV is taking a real battering.
On board the 174-foot (53m) Drumbeat, navigator Adrienne CAHALAN reported conditions as being generally light, although it had piped up to 20 knots during the night. 'It is changing a lot with the path these lows are taking. You are still going to have to stay below 40 degrees north, and we might get some strong southerlies near the end of the week. At the moment it is not too bad.' The noon position update showed Drumbeat in third in the Performance Cruising class 1.

Up until last night, the massive ketch Drumbeat had been match racing her sloop-rigged near-sistership Tiara. 'They disappeared off south,' continued CAHALAN. 'We didn't want to dive south, and they didn't come up on the last position report, so we are wondering what they are up to.'

While conditions are light and sunny down the fleet, they could not be more different for the leaders in the Grand Prix class. 'We have a lot of wind right now - 40 knots from 200 degrees [south-southwest],' reported Mari-Cha IV navigator Jef D'ETIVEAUD. 'We are just changing from a No. 4 jib to a storm jib. We are doing between 25 and 30 knots, averaging probably 24 knots. We are pushing 30 in the gusts.' Now into the Gulf Stream, the seas are hammering the state-of-the-art 140-foot maxi schooner. 'This morning we had to slow down the boat, because it was so bad,' continued D'ETIVEAUD. 'It was a big sea with square waves, very big waves.'

Mari-Cha IV and Maximus continue to take a long loop south while Joe DOCKERY's Carrera perseveres with the great circle route, closer to the shore, but with the prospect of facing severe headwinds. Yesterday morning, Mari-Cha IV was leading on the water, but at the noon GMT update yesterday, Carrera had once again regained first place, sailing the more direct course to the north. This morning the race trackers was showing Mari-Cha IV back in the lead ahead of Maximus with Carrera dropping to third.

Mari-Cha IV has been maintaining its southeasterly course in order to get across the path of the oncoming depression and into favourable winds on its eastern side. D'ETIVEAUD believes the present blustery conditions will stay with them for the next 20 hours. On Monday, they celebrated owner Robert MILLER's birthday on board with a cake.

While Peter HARRISON's ketch Sojana leads on the water in Performance Cruiser class 1, Clarke MURPHY and the crew of the Swan 70 Stay Calm are putting in a blistering performance at the front of Performance Cruiser class 2 - 66 miles astern of Carrera. 'It has been a bit bumpy,' described Mike BROUGHTON, Stay Calm's navigator. 'We have ten knots from the north east, and we are pushing the boat as hard as we can to drive ourselves through the centre of this flabby area of low pressure, which is making it all a bit difficult. The next 15 hours will be quite tricky for us.' Conditions have been 'fitful' on board Stay Calm, the wind going up and down between five and 15 knots. A light spinnaker has shred seam-to-seam and is now in the process of being fixed.

Like most of the leaders, Stay Calm is currently heading for the Gulf Stream, some 200 miles offshore. 'We are aiming for the top of this warm core eddy, and hopefully that will keep us moving,' said BROUGHTON. Planting themselves into a favourable north-easterly-flowing eddy can add three or four knots of boat speed, but to achieve this, they must monitor sea temperature closely. 'The temperature started at 14 degrees Celsius back in New York, went down to eight and up to 14, and now we're at 16-17. We are hoping in the next four or five hours it should go up quite a lot, and then we should get into the stream properly.'

To date, Stay Calm's track has been with the more northerly group. 'Some of the boats farther south will get into the westerlies quicker,' explained BROUGHTON, 'but will be dead downwind in lighter conditions with quite a choppy seaway, which might be quite dodgy with spinnakers. Whereas we'll be closer hauled, which should help us drive through the waves.'

In the Classic class, Dr. Hans ALBREICHT's Nordwind is leading on the water over race chairman A. Robert TOWBIN's Sumurun.

From on board Atlantic 100 years ago Frederick HOYT wrote of their progress on day two:

'A fresh westerly breeze and bright warm weather greeted us when we came on deck this morning. It was the first day warm enough to get a morning bucket over one and as fresh baths are forbidden the water supply being limited it helped out wonderfully.'

'At 0930 a small hole developed in the spinnaker and to save it from growing the sail was taken in. As it continued to breeze on, it was decided not to risk carrying that sail and the square sail was set in its place with the weather raffee above the yard. The same weather continued with a fresh westerly breeze the ship going between nine and ten miles - the sea making up all the time but the rolling of the yacht being very easy and not in the least uncomfortable. Toward evening the breeze came more westerly and to save it from banging to pieces, the mainsail was taken it. A beautiful night followed with just enough breeze to keep the sails quiet. The moon added to the beauty.'

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Stay Calm are sailing brilliantly in the Performance Cruiser class 2:© Scott Kozinchik/Rolex
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