The Class 2 fleet in Around Alone 2002-03 are negotiating the edges of the South Atlantic High, and it's providing much more of a tactical challenge than it did for the Class 1 boats.
For class leader Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America the trip south has been the most frustrating. In order to get past the High, Brad has sailed well west and now well south. Finally he is far enough to the south to be clear of the light winds and is on a fast run in to Cape Town averaging about 12 knots. Sparring partner Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet is sailing in tandem with Van Liew in the strong NW breeze but on the bigger Open 60, Schwab should arrive before his fellow American.
Derek Hatfield on Open 40 Spirit of Canada and Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal have succeeded in narrowing the gap to 230 miles from Van Liew but these 2nd and 3rd place boats, however, are the most at risk, sailing very close to the centre of the High. Everest Horizontal is to the south of Spirit of Canada, but neck and neck in terms of DTF, and the wind circulation is clearly around a tight centre that could expand at will and bring calm weather to the two boats.
Derek Hatfield's comments in his log today reveal the situation: "I've just spent the whole night hand steering with the spinnaker up, attempting to make some distance to the west. It seems that the high pressure system that we are trying to get around backed up over me yesterday and I am in real danger of getting pulled in too to close to the centre of the high, where there is no wind. The weather grib files that I receive showing me the wind and pressure changed completely from Saturday to Monday. I have good wind right now and am hoping that I have not cut the corner too close."
Should their luck & the wind run out, you can be sure that the trailing boats would do an end run around them.
Again, it's an interesting tactical scenario that bears watching. Alan Paris on BTC Velocity summed things up best in his email this morning. "Poker anyone?" he asked: "Each one of us has varying degrees of access to weather information and with that goes our varying ability to interpret it and make some key decisions. If we were all sitting around playing Poker at two tables right now, Derek (Spirit of Canada) and Tim (Everest Horizontal) at one and next to them Kojiro (Spirit of yukoh), John (Bayer Ascensia) and myself (BTC Velocity), what cards would we play? I know I would be trying to see what Derek and Tim were doing and for sure not showing John and Kojiro my hand. So a Royal Flush, 4 of a kind or bust, no folding allowed, you must keep playing, even if you say ' I'll see your hand ' at the wrong time."
Because the High has a mind of its own, the game table is ever changing.
Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on Open 60 Tiscali has passed the Cape Verde islands, and is making good progress South with less than 5,000 miles to go.
Positions at 1400 GMT, 19/11/02
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh