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5 June 2005, 10:19 am
BG SPIRIT Runaway Winners Of Leg Five
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2004/2005 Global Challenge

BG SPIRIT, skippered by Australian Andy FORBES, has won Leg 5 of the Global Challenge 2004/05 by an unusually large margin of 243 miles. They drifted across the line in light airs after a frustratingly slow approach at 12:24:10 GMT.
In previous legs, the race for first over the line has come down to a matter of minutes, and the race to Boston looked to be following suit. Three weeks after leaving Cape Town, the top seven yachts were still incredibly only 19 miles apart in terms of distance to finish. The lead was changing hands regularly without warning and teams' leaderboard positions were slipping by as much as four or five places within six hours.

Then came the critical moment; when BG SPIRIT made the brave decision to stick with their lonely position to the east of the fleet as high-pressure approached. 'We've never followed the pack,' said Andy FORBES at the time, 'these boats are so close now it's hard to make up mileage so I think sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and even though that might be the shortest distance, I think we can get a better run across the top.'While the fleet was engulfed by the high-pressure cell and stopped dead in their tracks, BG SPIRIT skirted the high and used the consistent breeze from the southwest to build a substantial lead.

'If you go back about ten or eleven days into the race,' explained FORBES just after crossing the line, 'there was a definite choice to be made about an approaching weather system, and everyone had to make their minds up as to which way they were going to go. We were hanging to the eastern side of the fleet and we knew it would pay off, and well, it did!''When we made that choice to stay east, there was a small risk involved; it wasn't a major risk, I still don't really understand why the rest of the fleet piled into the [wind] hole that was there. We knew the hole wasn't going to budge and you only had to be another 60 miles further east from where they were, which is where we stationed ourselves and we were gone.'

Incidentally, SAIC La Jolla had been with BG SPIRIT on the eastern flank, but decided to head back towards the fleet just a few days before the advantage of the position became apparent. 'What can I say? We got this all wrong not spotting the way out of here with BG SPIRIT early enough,' said Eero LEHTINEN, skipper of SAIC La Jolla, at the time.Initially BG SPIRIT slipped from first to fourth but in a period of 48 hours they shot back into first and developed a lead of almost 40 miles. An impressive achievement in itself, but their advantage continued to grow; four weeks in to the leg they pulled ahead by over 130 miles in a 24-hour period, extending their lead to almost 200 miles.

'We didn't expect it to pay off as much as it has done,' said FORBES. 'We moved into different weather systems and it was pretty much all done and dusted. For some reason our lead just kept extending and extending - it was an amazing feeling.'

BG SPIRIT also won Leg 3 in a similarly brave fashion by making a bold move to the south of the course when the rest of the fleet stayed north; a result which earned them first place on the overall leaderboard. 'When we left Sydney we were four points clear,' said FORBES, 'but when we left Cape Town we were four points behind. We said then that things could change and it looks like they might.'They had a disappointing tenth place into Cape Town at the end of Leg 4, but as they settle down to celebratory beers in Boston Harbour, at least one clear day ahead of any rivals, the position of BP Explorer and Spirit of Sark will be of particular interest. If their positions remain as they stand this afternoon, BG SPIRIT would move into joint first overall with BP Explorer.BP Explorer is in fifth place this afternoon but amazingly after 35 days at sea, Imagine It. Done. is only one mile behind them in terms of distance to finish and not only threatening to steal fifth place, but also deny them the overall lead. Barclays Adventurer is currently in second with 230 miles to go and expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon.

Rachel Anning. Image, BG SPIRIT:© Challenge Business
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