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3 March 2005, 09:04 am
Keeping A Balance
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Oryx Quest 2005

Skipper Brian THOMPSON (GBR) is having to carefully control the speed onboard leader Doha 2006 while they race across rough seas. Further back Cheyenne is beginning to make some headway into the leader's massive advantage.
After the retirement yesterday of Geronimo, THOMPSON (GBR) is having an ongoing debate with himself about how fast to sail the boat. It's a fine line between pushing too hard and breaking the boat or to tap back on the gas pedal and allow the competition to sneak up from behind. 'It's always changeable out here,' he wrote in his log, 'so it's a fascinating balance to keep the boat moving fast enough to win, yet slow enough to guarantee making it to the finish.'

THOMPSON went on to describe the balance that needs to be struck. 'A big part of the tactics here is managing the sea state as well as the wind shifts. It would be very easy to break the boat in this area. Racing a maxicat down here means throwing the polars (the predicted speeds at different wind speeds and angles) out of the window and just sailing the boat to our best estimation of the limits of the structure, the rig and the sails.'

'It's really a judgment call at the end of the day, and experience is the only guide. At these speeds you cannot jump over many waves before doing some serious damage. My job is to set the pace that we are going, and it's often a case of reigning in the team that want to go really fast and want to sail as if it was flat water conditions. On other occasions, if it all looks good, the sea state is moderating, then it's all clear from me to pile on more speed. There is a saying that a famous US multihull racer Walter GREENE told me - 'take the easy miles', so that's what we are doing when we can, but not now, not yet.'

Doha 2006 is just under 1,400 miles from Cape Horn. If they maintain their present speed they should reach the legendary Cape in three days although the weather patterns remain the constant wild card. A series of low pressure systems are swirling about, any one of which could slow their progress while Cheyenne and Daedalus ride the crest of an approaching front and storm up from behind. It's going to be an interesting few days.

As Cheyenne pounds across the deep south, the boat and the crew in their foul weather gear are the only colour in an otherwise bleak landscape. Fog, drizzle and low overcast skies are the order of the day as Wouter VERBRAAK (NED) describes in his daily log. 'Our world at the moment is rather grey,' he wrote. 'The sky is grey, the water is grey, the birds are grey, even our skippers beard is turning grey!''

Cheyenne is the most southern of the three remaining boats in the Oryx Quest 2005. At the 07:00 GMT poll on Thursday morning the maxi-catamaran was sailing at 54 degrees south, three degrees deeper than Doha 2006 and six degrees further south than Daedalus. Cheyenne was also recording the fastest speed in the fleet of 20.6 knots. Their course has allowed them to take back 50 miles on the Qatari catamaran, but despite the gain they remain well over a thousand miles astern.

Brian Hancock (As Amended By ISAF). Image: © Event Media
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