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10 April 2005, 09:59 am
Leg Four Review
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2004/2005 Global Challenge
Cape town, South Africa

With all the boats now in Cape Town having finished leg four of the Global Challenge, the skippers of VAIO, Team Save the Children, Samsung, BG SPIRIT and Me To You reflect on the 6,200 miles between Sydney and Cape Town.
Skippered by Amedeo SORRENTINO VAIO arrived in 40 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes and 25 seconds having pounded to the finish in ten knots, before being caught in lighter winds which had besieged the first ten yachts.

The strong winds that the yacht had been experiencing through the night meant they were expected earlier but, similar to much of the fleet, the wind died again for their final approach to the line, in the shadow of Table Mountain. The wind, a powerful south-easterly, is typical of Cape Town at this time of year, commonly known as the 'Cape Doctor'. Speaking on the dockside when he arrived SORRENTINO talked about his final stretch: 'As the wind changed from light to strong I've never seen the crew speed so much and work so well.'

Asked what the hardest part was, SORRENTINO replied, 'Being in eleventh position was tough.' Deciding they had nothing else to lose they went for a gamble, as SORRENTINO expands. 'I wanted to head north in search of the tropical storms that are sometimes found up there. That would give us a better wind angle into Cape Town. We knew there was probably a 10-20% chance of it paying off but we just had to take the risk. It didn't pay off but everyone was still pleased we did it. We were not too happy with the result but I am very happy with the crew's performance. In the middle of the leg, the team decided not to look at the other yachts performance and instead to judge their performance against themselves. We had a very good last week, just a bit disappointed that the risk didn't pay off.'

Team Save the Children skipper, Paul KELLY turned 29 when he arrived in Cape Town yesterday evening, obviously keen to celebrate his birthday off the boat with some beers, real food and the company of his friends and family. He explained what it was like for the team racing in: 'We had a beautiful run up the coast for the last two hours or so, then the breeze completely dropped and we just sat there in the bay waiting for the wind to fill in and all of a sudden we had 42 knots of wind. We crossed the finish line in dramatic style, the sea and the winds just whipped up from nowhere, it was just incredible. I've never seen anything like it - quite an amazing finish actually.'

'We had an absolutely amazing spinnaker run from the Cape of Good Hope all the way up to the edge of Table Bay so we were incredibly lucky. The wind hole only lasted about half an hour so we're very happy about that otherwise we'd have been out there all night.'

Samsung, who arrived in tenth place, have had a few hours since arriving to reflect on their adventure, delighted to have crossed the finish line but disappointed that their position did not reflect some of their earlier race triumphs.

Skipper Matt RIDDELL explained how he felt to be in Cape Town: 'Oh, relieved, I'm relieved. The toughest, by far the toughest leg for us and for me personally. Coming in tenth place, we narrowly missed out on a ninth having sailed more than 6,000nm.'

'When the fog broke this morning we found ourselves next to BG SPIRIT which was amazing and we've been duelling with them all morning and really for the best part of the day. When they rounded the final waypoint to head into Cape Town harbour they had their spinnaker up and they'd run out of wind so fortunately we caught up. We were some 100 metres behind them and we really thought we were going to overtake them to ninth, which would have been the ultimate.'

'Unfortunately their spinnaker refilled as they started to get a little bit more wind and they tore off. By the time we had our spinnaker up they were probably about 500 metres in front. We were so close to it, even a ninth would have been good, it would have been rewarding. But everyone's here, safe, happy. The boat's in one piece and that's all that really matters and we're still fifth overall. But that was a bad leg.'

Asked why it was bad he explained: 'We left Sydney and we were twelfth by the first sched so that was very disappointing. Obviously for me leaving home was really, really tough and sailing down the east coast of Australia I just wanted to turn back!'

'We did actually manage to work our way back up to fifth and at that point, crew morale was sky high and I think that's where we got complacent - we just thought 'ah, this is business as usual and here we are, we don't have to try anymore. We're in fifth and the rest will take care of itself' and of course that was not the case and everything just went against us - we seemed to have a lot of bad luck (but I think you make your own luck as well) we just found ourselves slipping back from fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth then we had a clear gap between Me To You and BG SPIRIT; probably 20 or 30 miles at least. We managed to let those two slip past us as well which was very difficult when you're used to doing pretty well.'

A disappointing leg for BG SPIRIT too, who secured ninth, although they were one of the hot favourites having won leg three and previously standing as top overall on the leader board.

BG SPIRIT's skipper, Andy FORBES, was optimistic however:'We started this leg three or four points clear of second and third place and we start the next leg up to Boston in the same position as those boats were to us so this race is still open to any number of boats at the moment. I think we just have to concentrate now on the next leg and pull it back and I'm very confident in the crew and the boat. Any boat can win this race at the moment and we just got to do our best.'

Like the rest of the skippers, eighth place James ALLEN and his crew aboard Me To You also talked about the final tough few miles although added to this his sheer delight that the Southern Ocean is finally over and they are now in port. He commented: 'It feels absolutely awesome. It's been a very long time at sea, some pretty crazy conditions really, pretty hostile. We've had very little wind for the last 60 hours or so. Very, very little wind - we've been crawling along, sometimes at one or two knots so to actually arrive on the pontoon with all the friends and family and all the celebrations is a pretty awesome feeling.'

Asked what the notorious Southern Ocean is actually like he expanded: 'This time, we really have been there. We've had some horrendous storms, 60-70 knots of wind giving us really hard times and extremely cold weather. It's the monotony of it, this kind of weather day in day out for 40 odd days. Every other day there's a storm, every watch you're being hit by freezing cold water. You're constantly exhausted, constantly freezing cold and that's what makes it tough. It's just the relentlessness of it.'

An amazing experience for more than 200 men and women from across the world who can feel proud at their incredible achievement - sailing across the great Southern Ocean, the wrong way!

The next leg, starting 1 May, sees the yachts leaving Cape Town, South Africa to sail the 6,775 miles to Boston, USA. BP Explorer heads the overall standings, two points in front of Spirit of Sark with BG SPIRIT a further four points back in third.

Final Leg Four Result:

1. Spirit of Sark
2. BP Explorer
3. Team Stelmar
4. Imagine It. Done.
5. Pindar
6. SAIC La Jolla
7. Barclays Adventurer
8. Me To You
10. Samsung
11. Team Save the Children
12. VAIO

Rachel Anning (As Amended By ISAF). Image, VAIO at the start of leg four:© onEditon
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