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6 April 2005, 09:08 am
Spirit Of Sark Takes First
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2004/2005 Global Challenge
Cape Town, South Africa

Spirit of Sark has taken first place, and their second Southern Ocean win, in leg four of the Global Challenge finishing less than an hour in front of second place BP Explorer. After 6,000 miles of racing the finish in Cape Town went down to the wire with the top four boats vying for the lead.
In the lightest of winds Spirit of Sark took victory over second place BP Explorer, with Team Stelmar taking their first podium place 39 minutes back in third. Long time leaders of leg four, Imagine It. Done. dropped down to fourth.

The four yachts were neck and neck as light winds swallowed up the fleet, parking them in a wind hole, which Spirit of Sark just managed to struggle out of to take the crown and the pole position.

Skipper, Duggie GILLESPIE (GBR) explained: 'I'm very, very, very pleased. We weren't expecting to win and it was a very, very close race at the end with four boats fighting tooth and nail to get up to the front. But we did it!'

'The tension at the end was unbelievable. The slightest mistake and you'd go right down the rating. The wind is changing, the direction is changing, patches of light airs, different combinations of sails - relentless, absolutely relentless!'

'Imagine It. Done. had a phenomenal leg and the last couple of weeks we've been sat behind in second trying to take them. When we hit the light patch we went slighter wider round and that got us in contact with them. We had BP Explorer immediately behind us and then Team Stelmar joined in as well.

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Spirit Of Sark sailing into Cape Town
© Challenge Business

'We literally didn't know until five minutes before we crossed the finish line that we'd won as BP Explorer were behind us and catching. Just so close.'

Dee CAFFARI, skipper of fourth place Imagine It. Done. was devastated to lose the lead, and then a podium position, so close to the finish: 'It is sad and unbelievable,' she wrote, 'that 7,500 miles from Sydney to Cape Town across the Southern Ocean with winds reaching 50 knots should end in a floating match race in one knot of wind with 0.1 knot of boat speed 40 miles from the finish line, we sailed into a hole that we were hoping we would beat.'

'After a couple of frustrating hours we were joined by Spirit of Sark and BP Explorer who sailed straight in behind us. All day was spent in each others company trying to get the boat to move in the right direction first. Later in the afternoon we even saw Team Stelmar had joined us on the float.

'It is frustrating for the crew that after all their hard work for 37 days, the race is basically coming down to who can find a lucky puff of wind before the other boat, in order to get to the line first. It is a shame that you can work so hard and fight for every mile and it can all disappear within a few hours on the last day.'

The fight is now on for fifth place with Pindar and SAIC La Jolla just 2 miles apart with only 40nm to the finish and sailing in the wind hole that has caught all the boats arriving in Cape Town.

Given the incredibly light winds and slow average speeds reported, seventh place Barclays Adventurer is also fast becoming a threat to Pindar. While SAIC La Jolla and Pindar are 'parked up', Barclays Adventurer is reporting a higher average speed of 4.9 knots and they are now only 19nm behind Loz MARRIOTT (GBR) and his crew in fifth.

At present Pindar is expected in Cape Town at lunchtime today but as we have already seen, localized conditions and fleeting breezes, or lack thereof, can dramatically affect the yachts' progress towards the line.

In ninth place BG SPIRIT has maintained their 3nm advantage over tenth place Samsung, but they have 105nm left to run so their position is far from guaranteed. Samsung could easily regain such a small margin so the tension will be building across the fleet as valuable points on the overall leaderboard fall to the mercy of the light winds and the teams ability to drive all the way to the line under constant pressure.

The racing is so close in these examples that any mistakes would be costly at such a late stage.

Dan Wedgwood (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Spirit Of Sark with the leg four trophy:© Challenge Business
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