There have been some changes on the fleet over the last 24 hours. Thierry "storming" Dubois has had his Joubert/Nivelt design Solidaires fully powered up and flying fast, and has managed to overtake Emma Richards on Pindar.
Some of the credit might be given to the swing keel on Solidaires. Pindar relies on an older water-ballast system for stability, but in the conditions that both boats have been sailing in, neither system should have an edge.
Open 60's are extremely powerful yachts and their power is derived from a number of factors. They are light; they carry massive sail area; and they compensate for this sail area by a canting keel or water ballast system that equates to having 50 of your closest friends sitting on the weather rail to keep the boat upright. Older designs, like Pindar, use water ballast for stability. Adding water certainly adds stability, but it also adds weight, and weight slows a boat down. On Solidaires, Dubois is able to cant his keel to windward using a block and tackle system attached to the top of his keel. By moving the top and hinging it at the bottom of the boat, the bulb on the keel is moved to windward. With the bulb sticking out to windward, gravity tries to force it back down again, and that force keeps the boat from heeling over. And it does so without adding weight to the boat.
Both Pindar and Solidaires have been heading south, sailing in southeasterly winds meaning that both boats are sailing on the wind. The trades are blowing a steady 20 knots so the boats will be fully powered up, Thierry with his keel swung as far as it will go, and Emma with her ballast tanks full. Considering that adding water also adds weight, you would think that Solidaires has an advantage, but at this particular point of sail extra weight can be a help rather than a hindrance. Both boats will be sailing into steep seas and adding weight allows Pindar to punch through the waves more effectively. Granted weight is slow, but in this case it might just allow Emma to steer a more direct course than Thierry. Once the wind comes around to the beam and punching through waves is no longer a factor, the canting keel on Solidaires will work its magic and Emma will have a hard time keeping up.
So that explains the changes in Class 1. Further back the Class 2 yachts are making an attempt to get west, and it has not been easy. Since starting from Spain all the boats have struggled to get west, something they need to do if they want to get through the doldrums. The doldrums are narrower to the west and if the competitors get sucked into the area south of the bulge of Africa, then they will have a very difficult time transiting this area of light, fluky winds. The problem with coming west is this; the wind is out of the northeast, in other words it is right from behind. If the boats sail on a port gybe, they can sail a southerly course which looks good in terms of distance to Cape Town. If they gybe to make some westing, they sail a course just south of west, which is a very painful direction. So that's the dilemma. It's very difficult to take that gybe to the west even though it's infinitely necessary. Yesterday Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal took the plunge and made some westing. His position dropped back to 4th. Overnight Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada gybed to the west and he dropped back to 4th allowing Kent to move back into 3rd. This see-sawing will continue until the doldrums. Further south Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America also made a move to the west. Brad knows that the best line of longitude to cross the doldrums is around 26 degrees. He might be hard pressed to get that far west, but the intention is clearly there. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the next few days.
Positions at 1400 GMT, 03/11/02
||Bobst Group-Armor Lux
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of yukoh