BG SPIRIT's bold tactical move east paid huge dividends for the crew who shot into first and claimed the longest lead win in the event's history - 36 hours.
A jubilant skipper, Andy FORBES (AUS) commented, 'We didn't expect it to pay off as much as it has done. We moved into different weather systems and it was pretty much all done and dusted. For some reason our lead just kept extending and extending - it was an amazing feeling.'
BG SPIRIT also won leg three in a similarly brave fashion by making a bold move to the south of the course when the rest of the fleet stayed north, a result which earned them first place on the overall leaderboard. 'When we left Sydney we were four points clear,' said FORBES, 'but when we left Cape Town we were four points behind. We said then that things could change and it looks like they might.'
Leg one winners, Barclays Adventurer came in second with VAIO in third, a team who look like they have finally put their inter crew unrest behind them, to put them back to podium place standing.
Skipper, Amedeo SORRENTINO (ITA) explained his jubilation on the dockside, 'It's a great result for us and we were fighting for first all the way. It was very stressful for routing and navigation though but a podium place was our target.'
'It has a special meaning for all of the VAIO crew as we had some problems early on in the race. In Cape Town we found some group harmony and spirit and this is the result of it. It's the result of coming together as a team with the same goals of pushing the same direction.'
Talking about BG SPIRIT's tactical decision, which won them the leg, he explained, 'It was so courageous heading north and around the high pressure that they deserve their victory 100%.'
The close finishes which have characterised the race then started to appear with SAIC La Jolla - who led throughout much of the early stages of the leg - who came in 3.5 hours behind VAIO.
A small gap enabled the shore team in the USA to get a small rest, clear the champagne corks off the pontoons before the next three yachts charged dramatically to the finish. First to power to the line was BP Explorer, desperate to get in fifth to retain their overall first place standing, followed by arch rivals Spirit of Sark who they have shared much of the limelight with, each finding the other near impossible to shake off.
It looked like Spirit of Sark was going to catch BP Explorer - after a near suicidal tactical error grounded them - but they managed to pull it off by a staggering 1 minute and 32 seconds, to take fifth place.
Right behind the two teams, still desperate for a podium place after they were piped to the first place post in leg four, was Imagine. It Done, just 3 minutes and 25 seconds behind Spirit of Sark.
Keeping with the exceptionally close finish times were Team Stelmar coming in eighth, just in front of Me to You, 8 minutes behind. This is after 36 solid days of racing.
Samsung arrived in tenth followed by Team Save the Children in eleventh. Pindar's arrival completed the fleet.
'It's a disappointing result,' said Pindar skipper Loz MARRIOTT (GBR) just after crossing the line. 'It's been very frustrating for the crew and myself [because] we've performed so much better in the past.'
Talking about their results in previous legs MARRIOTT said: 'We were feeling good about our progression and development as a team and it showed from Wellington to Sydney and Sydney to Cape Town, but something went wrong on this leg ... we need to discuss it as a team, learn from our mistakes and bounce back for the next leg.'
The outcome of leg five and hence the overall leg results will now be wholly dependent on the outcome of the jury, following a protest lodged against BP Explorer by Imagine It. Done. Matthew RATSEY, Technical Director Challenge Business issued the official statement, 'Today Monday 6 June at 1930 EST skipper of Imagine It. Done Dee CAFARI submitted a protest against BP Explorer for an alleged 'luffing after sunset' incident earlier on the 6 June at 0052 UTC. The protest was lodged within the required timescales as specified in the General Sailing Instructions. The protest hearing is currently scheduled to be heard on Saturday 11 June. Further information to follow.'
The following description of the incident was published in the Daily Log for Imagine It. Done. on the 6 June 'After slowly gaining on them over several hours, we found ourselves within a couple of hundred yards of them and slightly to windward just after sunset. As we continued to gain on them, they started to alter their course to prevent us from passing, until both boats were heading above the course to Boston and sailing at much higher angles than we would normally choose to do with a spinnaker. As the light was fading and it became harder to see them and gauge distances we were forced to divert to keep a safe distance from them and we currently have the intention to protest the other boat for failure to comply with collision regulations at night'.
One of the peculiarities of offshore races is that they continue in darkness, unlike most other sailing events. Thus, as interpreted by Global Challenge, as you can see on the Rules page, the Racing Rules for Sailing (RRS) are suspended between sunset and sunrise, and the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (IRPCAS) take over. This is where Imagine It. Done. feels they are owed redress, as they feel that BP Explorer had an obligation to hold course in the darkness and fog. The alleged manoeuvre is an interesting one, because from a racing point of view, Imagine It. Done. would be disadvantaged by the move, rather than BP Explorer making an benefit from it, as BP Explorer also ended up on a less advantageous course to Boston.
If BP Explorer is found guilty this will have a major impact on the overall leaderboard standings.
Leg Five Results
- BG SPIRIT
- Barclays Adventurer
- BP Explorer
- Spirit of Sark
- Imagine It. Done
- Team Stelmar
- Me to You
- Team Save the Children