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26 February 2006, 04:46 pm
Second Ice Gate Behind Them
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

All the boats rounded the second Ice Gate last night and the leaders set off due south - and for a short while, west of south - straight away. The routing around a big high pressure zone, and with a deem low chasing up behind them, is way down south, then curve up towards the horn and hope that the predicted light winds don't ensnare them.

Position Changes

Places have been changing, as much as with the course differences than with boats actually overtaking one another. Pirates are showing in the lead as they made the first foray east after a few hours of going south, while Brasil 1 took advantage of the better wind angles they have been experiencing at the back of the feet and went south east as soon as they left the Ice Gate behind and jumped a place.

Not long ago Ericsson did a little wiggle in their course for one 15 minute poll period, indicating one of a possible set of circumstances: they might have stopped and backed down to clear their keel of weed, fish or something else undesirable; they might have had a big broach; they might have blown another spinnaker. Hopefully it's not the latter as they have had enough bad luck for this race and need some good luck on their side for a change.

Brasil 1 has been the boat to watch over the past three position reports. They have gone into fourth place showing 79 nautical miles from the leader, and in the three polls at 2200GMT yesterday, 0400GMT this morning and 1000GMT have made up 68 miles on the leader and have had consistently the fastest runs, posting 24 hour figures of 498, 495 and 449 miles. Now they are making a serious challenge for the lead and, with Marcel VAN TRIEST's entrepreneurial navigation decisions, they are still in with a serious chance of being first home into Rio.

Positions at the 1000GMT poll were: Pirates of the Caribbean in the lead from ABN AMRO ONE by two miles, One is considerably further south than Pirates. In third is movistar 14 miles from the lead, then Brasil 1 65 miles astern of movistar but a long way further north. Then it's Ericsson at 103 miles from the lead and ABN AMRO TWO 158 miles off the front, but, like Brasil 1 well to the north of the rest of the fleet.

40 Knot Barrier

ABN AMRO TWO had been making inroads into the lead over the two earlier position reports in the night, but lost miles on the last one. At the end of this email, navigator Simon 'SiFi' FISHER reveals why, 'To quote Charles Dickens, it has been the best of times and the worst of times over the last 24 hours. 'We have finally started to make inroads into the leads of the rest of the fleet, with a little more wind than the others and an angle that is a little more favourable we have been doing some really, really fast sailing. I looked at the max speed on the GPS earlier and we have broken the mythical 40 knots barrier. At some point last night no doubt careering down a wave with the driver unable to see where he's going we topped out at 40.6 Knots.

'Wave after wave punishes you as you stand there at the helm. Sadly the water has been punishing the mainsail too. With the sunrise this morning we were able to access the extent of the damage and it looks pretty bad - over a meter long tear in the film near the leech and no way of sewing it back up again. We will have to wait until conditions get dryer before we can stick it up. Easier said than done in the Southern Ocean with a 25 knot forecast for the next five days. Until we can effect a repair we are forced to sail with two reefs. Already we are seeing a difference in performance and it makes my guts churn - so close and yet so far to get back into the race - however we are still charging hard, it's not over yet - we will get back in this race.'

Bouwe BEKKING, skipper of movistar, has had a look at the route for the next few days and the likelihood of it getting quite chilly, 'Not so much to report from movistar besides a very wet night on deck and bloody noisy downstairs because of us flying over he waves. We did several headsail changes, not easy in the pitch dark and with speeds of around 20 knots. 'All the boys are in good shape, but some have mixed feelings when they look at the most likely route we are going to take. I call it the penguin route, we will be nearly able to see them walking on Antarctica, as this route is taking us far South.'The last 2,400 miles to the Horn will become bitterly cold, that I can guarantee you. But as the breeze looks reasonable it will only take six days, and then every mile we get north it will get warmer.'

Update From Brasil 1

It's hard to understand what Torben GRAEL must be thinking about having traded his Olympic Star for a Volvo Open 70, and the warm waters of Brazil for the icy briny of the Southern Ocean, he's the strong, silent type usually, but here he sends us a personal email and brings us up to date on a slippery problem, 'After some tough 24 hours, I'm glad to report that everything is still fine here onboard Brasil 1.

'The waiting period for the front winds finally ended and we got a front seat, with winds at 60 knots. The wind speed went from 25 to 60 in a second and we didn't feel it coming. Chuny (Bermudez) was at helm at that time and couldn't avoid the broach. We almost tacked. Luckily, it didn't happen and we suffered no damage. After that, we've been sailing with 25 to 30 knots, hitting wave after wave. The deck is REALLY wet. All the time.

'Temperatures are low right now and condensation inside the boat increased. Making anything in the kitchen is a hard task, with the boat shaking non stop. To wash a dish, you need one hand to hold it and one foot to pump water. Considering the boat jumps more than a rodeo bull, you can imagine how hard it is. 'We have a little leak in one of the keel's cylinders. It is in the cylinder itself and there's nothing we can do here to fix it. Horacio (Carabelli) has been controlling the problem. If the situation gets out of control, we have a spare cylinder. The problem is that the piece weights more than 80 kg. To fix it, we need perfect conditions, not only because of the movement, but because the alignment is really precise. So far, everything is under control, although the oil mixed with the water coats the leeward side and the floor becomes slippery.

'Our tactic to sail the northerly course always worked, but in the end the guys who sailed south got trough the gate before the front and had the advantage. We lost a few miles and are now trying to cut the deficit.

'The boat jumps so much that reminds me a little Laser class boat with 15 tons. When we hit the waves, the sound is one the most terrifying sounds we could hear out in this remote region.'No ALT tag specifiedThe Southern Freeze

Finally, a few words from Mike Sanderson aboard ABN AMRO ONE, the most southerly boat in the fleet and doubtless the coldest, 'Well we have got the Ice Gates over and done with, now we are back to the real McCoy and are on our way to the Horn. At the end of the day we where all in favour of them and for sure they are a necessity with the current speed of this new generation of boat, but there is no doubt that they have been tricky to deal with.

'In the early part of the reach yesterday we where pretty excited by them, it looked like we had a nice speed edge at this angle and would be able to cruise out too a good lead, however, from about a third of the way between the gates the breeze started it's rotation around the high and the fleet was in such a spot that even over that relatively short distance the scenario was that the further you got in front the more headed the breeze was and so the slower you went, a little disappointing to say the least.'I keep telling the guys that in a race this long that for sure all that stuff evens out, but it better hurry up and do something about it soon as I am starting to lose faith in that theory myself.

'It is awesome to see (touching wood) all the fleet still racing so strong, and everyone is not only still at 100 percent but all very much in the hunt still for those gate points, let alone the leg ones.

'Looks like we are in for some nice fast pleasant sailing as we roar around a massive high pressure, being chased hard by the Mother of all Lows. Not long after the guys on ABN AMRO Two rounded the Western Ice gate there was 55 knots of wind forecast to be there, and that would have been no fun!

'For now though it's fast and tactical, lets hope we can keep our noses out in front.'

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Three)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 25
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 21.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 20
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 16.5
7 ING Real Estate Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, movistar's position at the ice gate:© movistar
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