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4 March 2005, 10:20 am
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Oryx Quest 2005

It's white knuckle sailing for the two leading boats in the Oryx Quest 2005 as they ride the edge of cresting waves deep in the southern ocean.
For the last 24 hours the conditions have been perfect for maxi-catamarans, and the larger boats are gobbling up the miles, spitting them out the back in two rooster tails that rise three metres into the air. It is the kind of sailing that these crews have come for and the kind of sailing that they will remember long after the race is over.

On board Doha 2006 Fraser BROWN (NZL) is on his second circumnavigation in less than a year. He was part of Steve FOSSETT's (USA) record breaking team on Cheyenne when they set a new outright circumnavigation time last April. Now, as a seasoned veteran on Doha 2006, he is enjoying the ride.

His log speaks eloquently of the thrill of sailing big cats in the deep south. 'The Southern ocean is definitely a place you either love or hate, but for me it's the one part of the round the world course that fulfils my desire for this kind of yachting. The last couple of night watches have provided me with some of the most rewarding driving I have had since our 24-hour record in 2002 when the boat was Maiden II. Our sail configuration was simple, but effective. With two reefs and Yankee we were ranging between 25 and 30 knots of wind, but most importantly the sea conditions were almost ideal. The brief I was given when I started driving was quite simple 'around 30 is a good speed. Anymore is starting to get a little fast'. Nice number.'

A thousand plus miles astern of Doha 2006, Cheyenne has been enjoying similar conditions as they thunder along at 30 knots. Dave SCULLY (USA) and his team have been enjoying some sunshine as Wouter VERBRAAK (NED) describes in his daily log: 'As I write this the sun has just come up and 3 March has started for us. I am very glad to be able to tell you that we had a beautiful sunset. Just the fact that we could see the sun made it perfect. After more than three days in gray, foggy conditions it is a big, big relief to see blue sky again.'

'The blue skies, however, are the message that the ridge is catching up with us and we can expect a big change in the wind in the next day. A small but intense low is diving south behind us bringing strong northeast winds to the Cheyenne. To be able to have a good angle to the wind, we have worked a little north in the last days. As we have learned from the southeast trades, strong upwind conditions can be very damaging to the boat, so the main goal is to keep the boat in one piece. We are very keen not to go down the path of Geronimo with 2,500 miles to any land. With our northing, we will be able to have the winds from almost perpendicular to the boat which is much more gentle on both crew and boat.'

The crew on Cheyenne have also been dealing with breakages that have slowed them down. The equipment failure probably comes from the team pushing hard to catch Doha 2006. This time it was the spinnaker halyard that let go. VERBRAAK's log continued: 'There was a loud bang earlier today. The loads are enormous on all sheets and halyards and this time it was the spinnaker halyard that gave in. Within seconds our 500 square metre Code Zero reacher fell down from the mast and into the sea. Our boat speed immediately dropped from 22 knots to ten knots with the sail dragging behind us. It took eight men 15 minutes to retrieve it all and we were lucky not to have lost the sail altogether. This sail is crucial, and losing it would have been disastrous.'

On board Daedalus they have had a good run of repairing things rather than breaking them. Their Fleet 77 satellite communications equipment has been down for the past three weeks. Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his team have been diligently working away at the problem and this morning they were finally able to send some video footage back to race HQ. They were also able to re-hoist the Solent headsail that came loose from the furling unit a few days ago.

The good news was only marred by the fact that they have been sailing in light winds. BULLIMORE's wrote in his log: 'The only sad thing about the day is the weather conditions. In actual fact we have a blue sky with little cloud, calm seas, and light winds. A perfect day for cruising, but not for racing. The wind is developing and we are now doing around 18 knots in the right direction. That is a big step forward. Now we want to see a consistent 20 knots plus and we can start to knock off regular 500 mile days. Four or five of these and we would soon be around Cape Horn and on our way up the South Atlantic to Uruguay.'

At the 0700 GMT poll this morning Doha 2006 had 860 miles to go until the tip of South America. They are sailing at 21.6 knots. If they maintain that pace they should round the infamous cape in less than two days.

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