After slow start and a cold night, which necessitated the wearing of everything possible on deck, the VO 60 crews racing in the Accenture Round Gotland Race, faced an even colder morning with gritted teeth and determination.
The competition on the race track is resolute and overnight, Erle WILLIAMS and TeamRS snatched, and then extended, a 2.5nm lead over nearest rivals Matt HUMPHRIES with Challenge of Netsurvey and Sony Ericsson (Thomas BLIXT).
At 1500 local time today, TeamRS had rounded the mark off Visby on the western side of the Island of Gotland and was beginning a bumpy, upwind ride towards the finish line at Sandhamn, 100 nm further up the track.
With skipper Matthew HUMPHRIES at the helm, Challenge of Netsurvey continues to take some distance out of TeamRS, reeling them in to within three miles, while Thomas BLIXT (Sony Ericsson) is putting the pressure on Challenge of Netsurvey. Sailing on the same heading as Challenge of Netsurvey and with the same sail configuration of full main and no. 3 headsail, Sony Ericsson has the fractionally better boat speed and they are fighting neck and neck for every boat length of advantage.
Concentration onboard is intense. The boats are fully ballasted, with all sails stacked to windward and the crew not moving from the rail where they will stay for the rest of the day and all of tonight.
At speeds of around 9.5 knots, the fleet is making good progress and Marcel van TRIEST, the Dutch navigator onboard Challenge of Netsurvey, estimates that the first VO60 could be crossing the finish line at 0800 tomorrow. But first they have to tough it out, with an unpleasant night ahead of them with everything to play for and everything to loose.
Full crew lists, race viewer (offshore races) and results are available on the event website at the address below.