Having already dealt Amer Sports Too such a cruel blow, the winds are refusing to smile on the girls as they attempt to reach Halifax under jury rig.
The yacht is 150 nautical miles from Halifax, Nova Scotia and owing to an imminent deterioration in the forth-coming weather the Joint Rescue Command in Halifax has sent out the vessel 'Edward Cornwallis' to assist Amer Sport Too and may tow her into Halifax. They will rendezvous at approximately 1100 GMT. The forecast for Amer Sports Too is particularly nasty as they approach land. The local Canadian forecasts give storm warning for the approach to Halifax with westerly gales this evening reaching 35-40 knots, possibly 40-50 knots in places. The wind should drop on Saturday if they have not arrived before then, a very unpleasant end to the leg.
Lisa McDonald and crew have set a storm jib on the 10m stump of the mast that remains. But they are battling an adverse current - a combination of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador current which is running at up to three knots against them - and they are making only five knots over the ground. The girls have been using their engine to help speed progress towards Halifax, which they expect to reach sometime late tomorrow. The Nautor Challenge shore crew have come up with a potential plan for getting the boat across the Atlantic as soon as possible, with a ship due to depart Halifax for Antwerp on Monday. Even if this plan comes off, however, it leaves the team with the logistical nightmare of having to step the new rig in Antwerp and sail the boat back down to La Rochelle in time for the restart on 25 May.
Lisa's husband, ASSA ABLOY skipper Neal McDonald, has sent his own commiserations to the girls. "Poor Lisa and her team on Amer Sports Too - after man overboard or fire, losing a mast is about the worst thing to happen at sea. I hear all the crew are unharmed which is the most important thing - but what do they do next? I hope they make land reasonably quickly and get organised for France. I can't imagine the disappointment and worry - hope it all works out OK for them."
But as McDonald points out, the fleet is nearly halfway across to France, and they must begin to take the fight back to illbruck if they are to prevent John Kostecki from wrapping up the Volvo Ocean Race with a leg to spare. After a wobbly last couple of legs, illbruck is proving once again to be the pacesetter in fast reaching conditions. Even illbruck's Mark 'Crusty' Christensen has been gob smacked by the enormous speeds clocked up so far. "We have just completed the fourth day and have sailed almost 1500 miles or almost 400 miles a day, every day. At the current rate we will be in La Rochelle in another six days, 10 days total for a leg that was expected to take closer to 14."
Most of the crews have been singing the praises of the weather, and the fact that the 'ice box' restriction zone has prevented them from getting too cold and miserable.
After passing the eastern limit of the 'icebox', illbruck, ASSA ABLOY and Tyco are shooting to higher latitudes on a north-north-easterly course to position themselves for the low that is developing over New Foundland. The system promises winds of approximately 40 knots or higher.
As expected the wind went light and variable early this morning swinging from a comfortable southwesterly to light northeast at under 10 knots. This at first pushed the yachts towards the south, away from the route they wanted to follow until it veered to the southeast. As they pass the eastern edge of the 'ice box' they can for the first time this leg, if the wind allows, head towards the northeast and the finish line.
A ridge of high pressure with a cell centred to the north-west is causing the light winds and this is likely to be pushed away as the low pressure building over Nova Scotia moves eastwards. This will create an acceleration zone squeezing the isobars between the Azores high to the east and the low to the north.
The great circle and shortest route takes the fleet to about 47 degrees but with the Azores high sitting close to the Islands of the same name at 40 degrees, the temptation for the fleet is to head further north away from its influence. Similar thoughts are on the minds of the crews, from Bouwe Bekking, Amer Sports One, "Will people cut the corner around the high-pressure system, or take the longer northerly route?"
Over the last few hours the breeze was shifting around and the yachts had to tack in a light easterly wind while still popping around in the old swell. SEB and Amer Sports One are about to pass the waypoint while djuice has left 13 miles to the corner. The last few hours has seen a very close battle between SEB and News Corp after News Corp overtook ahead of the 0400 reports. With the shifting winds and sailing within sight of each other SEB has regained the advantage but both need to keep an eye out behind as Grant Dalton has found an extra bit of pace.