At the 0600 GMT poll on Friday morning, Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his crew on Daedalus crossed the imaginary line that finally puts them back in the Northern Hemisphere. With the equator crossing behind them, another major milestone can be ticked off as BULLIMORE and his team tackle the last chunk of ocean standing between them and a successful circumnavigation.
Unlike Doha 2006, which crossed the equator nine days ago, Daedalus has hardly slowed. Their track since entering the Indian Ocean has been straight and true as they continue to take big chunks out of Doha 2006's lead. Ten days ago they were over 3,000 miles astern; this morning they are less than 1,800 miles behind the Qatari catamaran. However it is most certainly too little, to late. At the same 0600 GMT poll Doha 2006 was 199 miles from the finish line matching Daedalus for speed. It is almost time for THOMPSON and his team to begin thinking how they are going to spend that million dollars.
The past 24 hours has not been easy for the multinational crew on Doha 2006. The Strait of Hormuz dished up the same tranquil sailing as it did on the outbound path. A glassy ocean heaving gently from centuries of constant use is no place for a boat in a hurry. Instead the crew had to content themselves with a spectacular light show as a fiery sun dipped spluttering and sizzling into the water ahead of them. It's déjà vu all over again as Paul LARSEN (AUS) describes in his log. 'So here we are, here we are,' he wrote. 'Parked up in the Strait of Hormuz just as we were on the way out. It's a 'park-up' so spectacular that you almost don't want to go below decks in case you miss anything. The big difference this time is that the other boats aren't scattered around us as they were on the way outbound. It is total glass here and the log has been showing 'goose eggs' (all zeroes) for hours now. The mountainous skylines are on hazy horizons and the sunset was wonderfully peaceful.'
It is still no given that sunrise this morning will be their last of their voyage around the world. With just under 200 miles to go they will have to keep in fair breezes until the final mile. The forecast does offer some hope, but it is not all good news. The Met office in Qatar is predicting 15 to 20 knots from the northwest; headwinds, but not hard on the wind. The wind is forecast to ease slightly later in the day and then probably die overnight. The desert sands in Qatar suck warmth all day, but so does the ocean. THOMPSON and his crew can only hope that there is enough of a temperature difference between the two to cause a land breeze during the evening otherwise it may just be a repeat performance of the last few evenings. The same as the one described in Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE's famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 'Nor breath nor motion, like a painted ship upon a painted ocean.'
In Doha a contingent of international media have descended to witness the finish. The fact that a local Qatar entry is about to win a major ocean race is big news, not only in the Middle East, but further a field where sailing enthusiasts have watched the race unfold since the boats set off two months ago.
Despite losing Geronimo and Cheyenne from the competition it has still been an interesting event. In an earlier log Will OXLEY(AUS) mentioned that he thought that their successful circumnavigation will mark the tenth time only that a big cat has been sailed non-stop around the world. With circumnavigation ocean races becoming more commonplace we are all starting to take it for granted that each trip will be a success. It is still a major undertaking to race a large, highly strung multihull non-stop around the globe leaving the five southern capes to the north. Pitfalls of all kinds lie in wait from errant logs in the South Indian Ocean, to a snapped shroud on a massive carbon mast. To bring a big cat home takes patience, skill and dogged determination.