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24 February 2005, 12:14 pm
Thoughts of Money and Ice
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Oryx Quest 2005

For the first time in a few days the edge-of-control sailing on Doha 2006 has given way to more moderate conditions as the Qatari catamaran sails the southern Tasman Sea. At the 07:00 GMT poll on Thursday the yacht was 100 miles west of the longitude of Stuart Island, a remote island off the south coast of New Zealand's South Island.
The wind had moderated, as had the speed which was down from the mid-twenty averages, to a more sedate 11.89 knots. The next few days are going to provide some tricky sailing for the crew on the Gilles OLLIER designed catamaran. It's also going to dish up some hard choices as Paul LARSEN (AUS) describes on his daily log.

'The pace has slackened for us this morning as we begin to drop off the back of the front we have been riding for the past couple of days,' he writes. 'We have a bit of an issue with a high pressure system at the moment… Up ahead lies a substantial ice belt which if we were to avoid, would require us to go north... into a high pressure 'parking lot' with no wind. To go south gives us wind, but also the risk of icebergs. The ice is still a few hundred miles ahead as we are currently south of the Tasman Sea and the ice is under Campbell Island to the south of New Zealand. We are carefully watching our position as we are trying to keep various avenues open depending on what weather lies ahead.'

Also on board Doha 2006, skipper Brian THOMPSON (GBR) was enjoying the less hectic conditions and taking a philosophical approach to their lead over Cheyenne. 'Over the last few days we have been hammering along with reduced sail,' he wrote, 'Now with the wind trending to the west and astern it's back to the gennakers and downwind VMG sailing. We have managed to stretch out to a lead of 720 miles over Cheyenne due to those fast, reaching angles we had. It's just over a day's run, however this is probably going to be getting reduced over the next few days as we sail to the south of New Zealand. It's certainly a decent gap but with these incredibly fast boats, one false move and that cushion could be completely gone. It's going to be an interesting battle ahead for all of us.'

The lighter conditions had in fact already allowed Cheyenne to narrow the gap. At the 07:00 GMT poll Cheyenne had reduced Doha 2006's lead by almost a hundred miles and the boat was sailing almost 10 knots faster. At that rate the gap between the boats could be narrowed very quickly. On board Cheyenne life was progressing nicely as Claire BAILEY (GBR) describes in her log. 'Life on board has been stable for a few days as we ride the edge of a low pressure system just below Australia,' she wrote. 'Our average speed of 20 knots and reasonable sea state has allowed us to catch up with jobs on board. Mark [FEATHERSTONE(GBR)] has had his head in the bilge unblocking the pumps. The rest of the crew are trying to find out who it is that keeps leaving the toilet cocks open. Unlike other boats our toilet has a self flush facility when you open the valve sea water shoots in at what ever speed we are traveling at. So it's quite easy to flood the boat at 20 knots! The highlight of the day is 04:00 hot porridge. It makes a change from freeze dried. All the injuries are on the mend. Gordon [MAGUIRE (IRE)] has no long term consequences from his head injury and Wouter's [VERBRAAK (NOR)] elbow is on the mend after a dose of antibiotics. All we ask now is that Alex BENNETT (GBR) stops talking about cars and gets on with sailing the boat!' Those that know Alex know that he loves cars just about as much as he loves boats.

The moderate conditions have allowed all the crews some time for introspection. Paul LARSEN on Doha 2006 took some time to send an interesting log about the large amount of prize money up for grabs. Paul is a terrific writer with a keen wit and sense of humor as large as the boats he loves to sail. Here is his take on the pot of gold at the end of the 24,000 mile course. 'One of the interesting aspects of this event is the large amount of prize money up for grabs,' he wrote. 'One million US dollars in fact. It adds a whole new dimension to the game which is pretty novel to most of us. Onboard the boat it is almost as if it didn't exist, as if the mere mention of it will send us headlong down a path of disaster and deserved poverty. So any consideration of prize money should best be kept to oneself. However, seeing that this is going off the boat then let me share a few of the thoughts that had crossed my mind regarding a share of the prize money.'

'Firstly, each individual onboard now has a substantial vested interest in this boat succeeding. Normally you get paid no matter what the result. But now your pay multiplies if you actually win. If the mast blows over the side, so does a suitcase with a million dollars in it. So the value of each critical component on the boat has now gone up by a million dollars, no matter how big or small it is. Not only will it cost the owner/sponsor of the boat, but come out of the earnings of the crew. Now is this unrealistic? Not worth thinking about? Or an incentive to get up and go and check everything one more time? Secondly, to steal a quote of Stan [DELBARRE (FRA)], 'Don't smile at the crocodile until you have crossed the river', which in the context of the conversation means that although we are currently in good shape and in a strong position, there is a loooong way to go. The money adds a second level of pressure above simply 'the glory' to actually win this thing. Could you imagine anything worse than being 500 miles in the lead as you re-enter the Arabian Gulf only to have a complete park-up in the Strait of Hormuz and watch your nearest rival come roaring right up to you... and then sneak off with the chocolates? Now, it's one thing to have to suffer the smugness in the bar afterwards and to have your competitive pride trampled on, but it's another thing to watch that same smug person riding around town next month in a brand new Ferrari. Forget that, I want to be the sender of the postcards here, not the receiver. 500,700,1000 miles in front. It's not enough until you are over the finish line. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person onboard thinking about such matters. So those are just a couple of thoughts that crossed my mind in the long night time watches. Cash, both an incentive and a pressure cooker that could be the bringer of joy... or long term bitterness. One things for sure, it will magnify the emotions of the final outcome.'

Meanwhile, off the race course, the crew of Geronimo continue to make their repairs in Freemantle, Australia but it's not all good news. Antoine DERU (FRA), will not be continuing the race when Geronimo leaves Freemantle as he has a cracked kneecup. The injury happened on board but it was only when they reached land that a complete diagnosis could be undertaken.

Brian Hancock (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Doha 2006
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