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22 February 2005, 11:11 am
Doha Pulling Away
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Oryx Quest 2005

Doha 2006 is pulling away at the front of the pack as her closest rivals Cheyenne and Daedalus encounter problems. The Qatar catamaran was racing along at 26.6 knots at the 07:00 GMT poll this morning and has already eaten up most of the Great Australian Bight.

Cheyenne, has dropped to 600 miles astern as the boat has been plagued by problems. 'The boat is moving strangely and the numbers are down,' reports navigator Wouter VERBRAAK (NOR). 'I get out of my bunk and stick my head out of the hatch… the main is down! The inboard ends of the two top battens have been severely bent and have decided to give up on us. For five long hours we sail with only the jib...not good for progress. We get the problem fixed, and in the end the fittings are better than ever. The next morning the position reports show the damage; a 70 mile loss to the others.'

Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) on Daedalus is now more than 1,000 miles behind the leader and recording the slowest speed of the three - they were 'only' sailing at 18.6 knots. Their speed has dropped from earlier highs as BULLIMORE describes in his daily log. 'At the moment we have around 30 knots of wind whistling across the decks and we are steaming along at around 25 knots. I have just decided to reef the mainsail which will give us more control at the helm. It is vital that the helmsman feels comfortable and in control, especially when you are creaming along in such mountainous seas and high winds.'

Down But Not Out

At daybreak on Tuesday morning, Geronimo, the massive Capgemini/Schneider Electric trimaran was slowly limping toward Fremantle in Western Australia. On board skipper Olivier DE KERSAUSON (FRA) sounded somewhat dejected as he spoke to his shore team in a satellite phone call.

'The wind is blowing quite hard and so we are making sure that we arrive in daylight,' he said. 'It's going to be very difficult manoeuvring this boat. There are people ready to help us get the boat repaired and back into the race, but I can't tell how long it's going to take. We first have to open the structure and see what the damage is.' They hope to berth in Australia later today and start work right away. It will be a race against time as the rest of the Oryx Quest yachts are romping across the Southern Ocean at full speed.

'Farmer Jacques' Paddock'

Back at the front the smooth sailing and high speeds mean morale is high on Doha 2006. On board watch captain, Jacques VINCENT (FRA), knows the area better than most and the crew have dubbed the region 'Farmer Jacques' Paddock'. Paul LARSEN (AUS) elaborates in his log. 'The Albatross have joined the party,' he wrote. 'I call them 'Farmer Jacques' free-range chooks' [chooks are chickens for those not conversant in Australianese - Ed] as this is watch leader Jacques Vincent's eighth circumnavigation. I joke to him that this Southern Ocean is just a big ol' back paddock to him and that this here huge, carbon-fibre maxi-cat is just another tractor with which to go out and farm the miles. So far the farming has been just fine.'

Indeed the farming has been fine. At the rate they are eating up the miles on Doha 2006 they could be south of New Zealand in 48 hours.

Brian Hancock (As Amended by ISAF)
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