On Wednesday morning, SAIC La Jolla and Barclays Adventurer were fighting for the lead, exactly the same distance from the finish line. The afternoon poll showed Samsung back in the top spot and they have been unstoppable ever since.
Last night they were 52nm ahead; Barclays Adventurer and VAIO may have pulled back 11nm and 10nm respectively, but Matt Riddell and the crew of Samsung are still in control to the tune of 40nm this morning.
Cal Tomlinson, Challenge Business sailing manager, attributed Samsung's success to consistency this morning:
"Every time I have looked at the race viewer recently, Samsung seem to be sailing at the optimum wind angle for these light stop/start conditions - with the wind just forward of the beam. All this without compromising their course towards South America."
A beam reach can be described as the wind hitting the sails at a right angle to the yacht, so the optimum wind angle for light winds is just forward of this point. However, in addition to maintaining an efficient point of sail, Samsung must have made good progress through the doldrums, picking up squalls and passing rainstorms to help them on their way.
Judging by their average speeds since the last poll, SAIC La Jolla and Spirit of Sark both seem to have hit frustrating patches of light airs. But Spirit of Sark is more likely to regain the lost miles from their position further east. As the wind comes back round to the south-east as forecast, they will be heading back to the rhumb line with a better wind angle and increasing wind once they exit the doldrums.
SAIC La Jolla will be hoping the winds turns east so they can avoid having to tack, which would point the bow of the yacht back towards Africa rather than South America! They are the most westerly yacht of the fleet and will be forced to change course soon to avoid straying west of the rhumb line and away from the finish line.
The top 3 have recorded boat speeds upwards of 7 knots, which suggests that have left the worst of the doldrums behind, which could be bad news for teams at the back of the fleet.
In a further twist of unfortunate timing, Team Save the Children also appear to have hit a windless hole, recording the lowest average speed since the last poll this morning. However, this morning's figures back up the assertion that conditions in the doldrums are incredibly local, so Team Save the Children could still pick up intermittent bouts of strong wind to propel them on.
Imagine It. Done. and Spirit of Sark are about 20nm apart, but Duggie Gillespie and his crew have recorded an average speed since the last poll more than 2 knots slower. Perhaps Spirit of Sark did not pick up the same thunderstorms and squalls that Dee Caffari talks about in her audio interview this morning.