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30 June 2005, 09:12 am
Fast and Furious Downwind Ride
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2004/2005 Global Challenge
Boston, USA - La Rochelle, FRA

"With strong westerlies predicted over the next couple of days, we are enjoying a fast and furious downwind ride in 30 knots of wind, surfing the waves at up to 18 knots." BP Explorer skipper David MELVILLE left no doubt about the conditions yesterday.
The teams to the north of the pack recorded the highest speeds of 11 knots and above. "Very simply our tactics are all geared to one goal," said Spirit of Sark skipper Duggie GILLESPIE, "to get back up the position table, which is why we have headed north in order to pick up the stronger winds before the majority of the more southern boats."

Along with BG SPIRIT and VAIO they may be the fastest, but the competition to the south is also making good ground to La Rochelle. Skipper of first place Team Stelmar, Clive COSBY, has reported that his team equaled their top speed of 20 knots and are hoping to crack their record as the fleet heads downwind at an average speed of more than 10 knots.

"Up until Waypoint Charlie it was incredibly frustrating," said Clive this afternoon, "the wind was all over the place and didn't do what we expected it to do … we had a light patch last night that was fairly nail-biting but now we're barreling along. We knew that the breeze was going to fill in from the north so we made a move slightly further north yesterday. We took the kite down earlier and we've had about 30 knots of breeze and with poled out headsails it's quite a comfortable point of sail."

Team Stelmar notched up another couple of miles on the chasing pack yesterday, to lead by 9nm at the 07:42 poll this morning, but Clive remained cautious when discussing the outcome of the leg, all too aware that their lead equates to less than 1% of the course left to run in physical terms while the whole fleet is still only separated by 50nm front to back.

"It looks as though we'll hold on to this fairly strong westerly breeze for a few days," added Clive, "but should be a bit lighter as we get close to Biscay and La Rochelle so there's still plenty of sailing to go."

Testament to the fragility of positions, SAIC La Jolla has slipped another place to fourth, overtaken by Me to You. Imagine It. Done. has extened it's lead over Me to You of 1nm to 4nm and yesterday reported a distance of just 400 metres between them overnight. SAIC La Jolla is just 3nm behind Me to You with Barclays Adventurer a further three miles back in fifth. With the positions this close, anything is possible over the next 900 or so miles to La Rochelle.
Dan Wedgewood (As Amended by ISAF)
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