Having raced for nearly 4,000 miles the crew of Jersey Clipper would have had a clear view of their opponents on Bristol as they climbed out of the companionway hatch.
As Richard Butler's Bristol team slowly edged between Jersey Clipper and the finish line, skipper Simon Rowell decided the time had come for dramatic action and gybed to cover them. This was probably a sensible move as all the teams will need to put a lot of westing in to get to the finish line, but it has forced them into a close quartered match race with the other boat now less then three miles away on their port quarter. Not surprisingly Bristol skipper Richard Butler and his crew are rather pleased to be so close to the first position, but did make the point that the pressure really is now on.
Further back Glasgow and Hong Kong remain locked in battle, with Hong Kong performing exactly the same manoeuvre as Jersey Clipper. They too have gybed to cut across in front of Glasgow but have just missed the slot and remain just under three miles behind. The question now is whether Glasgow will gybe to cover them.
The distances involved in ocean racing do cause one to reconsider what constitutes a long and short time! Race Director, Colin de Mowbray, made the point a few days ago that although the boats were nearly there they still had the equivalent of a Fastnet Race left to sail. Certainly for the crews breaking through the last thousand mile barrier has great psychological importance and with 24 hour runs of 200 miles, the days fly by.
With two boats clearly in sight of one another and nearly at the finish, the remaining 340 miles to go promise to be especially hard fought. The strict routine of the watch system is likely to break down at this point, as the crews pull out all the stops to gain that extra ounce of boat speed. There will certainly be some tired crews stepping ashore at the Ko Olina Resort and Marina, as no team will want to miss the moment of overtaking or pulling away.
The weather is currently pleasant, if a little light; duty skipper Richard Butler reports a clear sky and 15 knots of breeze from the east south east. Today's weather chart (see the Race Viewer at www.clipper-ventures.com) shows the conditions the fleet can expect as they close Oahu, with a small area of high pressure to the west and disturbance around the islands.
The chart also shows how the islands currently lie exactly at the convergence point of the easterly trades the boats have been experiencing and the rather unusual westerly winds from a low off to the north west. This may be a boost to the boats in the east because although they remain further from the islands, they could have a better angle of approach as the wind continues to ease and swing more to the south.
Having been sailing downwind for so long, the boats could well end up having to tack between the islands and the positions that have been relatively stable for so long could well end up looking very little like the current order.
LATEST POSITIONS 29/01/2003 04:00:00
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