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5 January 2005, 03:49 pm
Anglo-Saxons in Battle Mode
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The Le Cam/ Riou/ Golding trio are on a direct course now about a day's sailing away from the Falkland Islands. They are squeezed into just 92.7 miles now, free of the close-hauled conditions on a direct course, but slowed by a shifty North-Westerly wind; PRB making an instantaneous speed of just three knots.
These conditions will be followed by some fairly fast reaching to get them up into the North-East. The situation in around 3 /4 days looks decidedly trickier. The chasing pack has got favourable 20/25 knot winds enabling Wavre to rack up the best day of the fleet ( 353.7 mile). Behind them the forming of a new depression has been giving Nick MOLONEY as much as 50 knot winds but ordered seas. Further big winds are the only real cause for concern between now and the weekend.

The Australian skipper looks likely to be the first affected by this system with Joé SEETEN, Bruce SCHWAB and Conrad HUMPHREYs also likely to take a pasting. Having passed within a handful of miles of numerous icebergs throughout the day mid ice field, Benoît PARNAUDEAU is likely to be in the firing line of this storm too, though his deficit on this group will give him less wind. Karen LEIBOVICI continues to bring up the rear of the fleet, over 5550 miles from the leader. Patrice CARPENTIER has decided to head to Christchurch, New Zealand, to make repairs with assistance, and thus outside the race.

'I'm feeling much better. It's been quite a relaxing 24 hours' said a clearly relaxed Mike GOLDING (Ecover) today, 39.5 behind second placed PRB. 'It's steady sailing. I made one small tack last night but it was short-lived. I'm having to get used to the boat not moving around much again. In the coming hours I'm anticipating a shifty breeze from the North West. As it progresses along it looks like the wind will get stronger tomorrow morning. It's still fairly fast conditions for us. For me the future weather situation doesn't look very complicated. It looks like we'll be able to make some fairly fast reaching which will get us into the North East. In 3/ 4 days things look a little trickier. The most important thing is going to be to position myself for later on. Miracles are my speciality! Looking back I think I really pushed it a bit hard in the Southern Ocean, downwind in the heavy airs. I've been lucky I haven't broken anything and though it must have taken its toll on the boat I haven't found any damage yet. I was able to push at a different level than the others as I can change my headsail (Code ECO). I was really pushing that sail. It would be nice to finish in January. A new race is starting for me now. I'm well, I'm motivated, making any small gains I can. It's one thing to catch up with the leaders, but it's something else to pass them. They're clearly not going to let me sail straight past them so I'll just have to wait for the right moment and play the tactics...'

Leader Jean LE CAM (Bonduelle) spoke of seas not being very easy but like Mike, he too had noticed a marked changed in atmosphere now that they're in the Atlantic. 'Progress is hard. Conditions have certainly improved since yesterday though. The past 10 hours have been much better and I think there will be the possibility for a crescendo. It's nice not to be tacking now at least, so I'm on a direct course. You can put your nose outside now without getting drenched and the temperature is up. I'm not surprised that PRB is going so well, in fact it would be worrying if he wasn't as we're in the same system!'

Clearly in a very different system seventh placed Nick MOLONEY (Skandia) has been making 10.5 knot averages over the past four hours, but the Australian skipper is already taking yet another pummelling weather-wise...'I have just got the mainsail down in 50 kts of wind, just spent an hour bee-lining it north - just working out how to gybe in the shift, and I am so annoyed. I was waiting for a lull, as it was going down to 35 and I had 3 reefs and staysail already I am thinking hell. I never got the lull [in the centre of the depression] and it was just 40-45 knots all the time and I thought I've got to get it [mainsail] down, I just pulled it down, luckily it came down alright, the staysail halyard slipped and the head stay slipped, and the thing was pumping its face off and I thought I was going to break the rig. Everything is lashed down and settled, staysail and no main. I´m making fourteen knots.... it depends. In the lulls between the squalls it is 10. I've gotta get out of here, it´s so windy it´s unbelieveable! The seastate is good though, not rough at all. '

Further changes in situation further back in the fleet with Conrad HUMPHREYS (Hellomoto) picking through a difficult transition zone with winds fluctuating at around 20 knots. The mainsail reefing procedure downwind has caused the port cap shroud to begin chafing, just as the starboard one did before. As a result Conrad is sailing underpowered with one reef in the mainsail until he can climb the rig tomorrow morning and cover the chafe with Kevlar. Meantime he is just 20.3 miles behind Bruce SCHWAB (Ocean Planet) at 1500 GMT, though the American skipper has no intention of letting him out of his sights...

Kate Jennings (As Amended by ISAF)
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