After a marathon sprint of approx. 6,880nm from Northern to Southern Hemisphere, the finish line in Cape Town, South Africa is beginning to loom large for the top four boats in Class one.
Today the skippers have been alone at sea for exactly 4 weeks, and the front-runners will be finishing around 30 days after they set off from Torbay, England on 14th October. This is a very quick passage by all accounts, but still a long time at sea, however the order of arrival for Leg 2 is still not a foregone conclusion.
Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux, who has retained a seemingly comfortable lead throughout the leg, has been having a tough time. He had to climb his mast twice yesterday in order to rethread the main halyard after a tackle block had failed, and yet he hardly lost many miles as he temporarily managed to hoist the mainsail using the gennaker halyard, so that he wouldn't have to climb during the night in 25 knots of wind and rough seas.
Tactically things are not easy in his opinion either: "The problem was with the second high pressure centre, which was moving ENE towards me. That forced me to head off further South to get away from the calm zone and on the right side to pick up some favourable wind. That's something the others won't have to do to such an extent because they are further behind. So if all goes well for them, they should catch up. The wind will stay until the day before the finish line, and then near the coast, we risk being slowed down again. The leg isn't over yet."
Top four yachts in Class 1 have recorded between 350 - 375nm runs in the last 24hrs. New Zealander Graham Dalton on Hexagon is gaining on the front boats with each position report. Equally, British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar is pushing hard, surfing at points up to 22 knots, knowing that relaxing the pace now potentially means 4th place at the finish. Sacrificing any sleep so that she doesn't lose the advantage, Emma has once again narrowed the gap between herself and Frenchman Thierry Dubois on Solidaires to 23 miles. "Everything is creaking and groaning to a state of paranoia…The gooseneck has been moving again, and not just the bolt but the arms too, the whole mechanism is screaming for me to stop but I reckon the faster I go the less time it will have under pressure (I'm sure there is some method in the madness!)."
If the fleet continues to bunch up, the finish in Cape Town will be very exciting.
Fifth placed Ocean Planet is in the Southern Hemisphere sailing through the Trades and last but not least, Italian yacht Tiscali is back on the move, after restarting from Spain with Stamm's replacement mast on Saturday afternoon. He should get to Cape Town within 30 days in time for the 14th December scheduled restart.
Class 2 update:
Derek Hatfield on Open 40 Spirit of Canada, second behind leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, has crossed the Equator: "Neptune welcomed me about three hours ago in the dark when a flying fish flew right into my shoulder and face, leaving left me dazed and smelling like a fish factory. I honoured King Neptune by throwing the still flapping fish back into the ocean, to fly again. It feels good to have this milestone under our belts and now it seems we are on the back side of the leg and we will fight all the way to Cape Town to maintain our position."
Not so far behind is Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal, who is crossing the Equator at the current position report, and like Hatfield, finds that this imaginary line is in fact a huge mental hurdle for the solo skipper: "The Equator is just over the horizon, days of tradewinds sailing are in the near future, the competition is fierce and the adventure is just beginning..."
Positions at 1400 GMT, 11/11/02
||Bobst Group-Armor Lux
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh