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6 February 2005, 09:58 am
Around the Bend
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Oryx Quest 2005
Doha, Qatar

After a rip snorting night sailing at speed toward the Strait of Hormuz, the leading yachts in the Oryx Quest 2005 have ground to an abrupt halt. The wind in the Strait has gone light and this morning the three bigger yachts find themselves drifting in foreign waters.

Foreign only in a sense that for the first time ever three of the fastest sailboats in the world are doing battle off the coast of Iran. Just a few short years ago no one would have thought it possible.

At 10:00 local time (07:00 GMT) Geronimo, Doha 2006 and Cheyenne were all around the hairpin bend of the Strait and had finally pointed their bows south. Tony BULLIMORE and his team on Daedalus were still on the north side of the corner sailing close to land. The view from on board must be spectacular; the peninsular that creates the sharp bend is mountainous with a fractured coastline. It's tricky sailing as strong currents rip through the area and the mountains create both gusty conditions and flat calms in the lee of land. The forecast is for the wind to build from the southwest and funnel between the high land in Oman and the coast of Iran, however in that region much of the sailing conditions are local.

An instant poll of the boats shows the three leaders in a tight bunch. On a distance to finish basis there is not much in it. The distance is calculated with a series of waypoints placed around the race course. The location of the waypoints is an estimate of where the fleet will sail, but it's subjective. Move the first waypoint, and with the boats so close, the lead may change. Olivier de KERSAUSON, the skipper of Geronimo reported seeing sail damage on Doha 2006. The Solent, the powerful headsail, appears to have either ripped or some other problem has developed as twice the crew lowered the sail to deal with a problem. There is no confirmation from on board Doha 2006 and it's likely that Brian THOMPSON and his team will deal the situation and keep the details to themselves. All the skippers are reluctant to divulge any on board problems which may give their competitors an edge.

During the night Cheyenne averaged 27 knots for a sustained period. The powerful catamaran finally found it's stride and seemed to be relishing the conditions. It seems that Cheyenne likes it most when the wind is up and blowing steady. Cheyenne is raw power and when the boat gets a bone in the teeth there is no stopping it.

Brian Hancock
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