BP Explorer now leads Spirit of Sark by three miles as fleet heads for Wellington
BP Explorer has taken the lead in the Global Challenge from Spirit of Sark. After a long reign at the top, Spirit of Sark has been toppled by BP Explorer’s shrewd move to the north of the course as a high-pressure system brings ever lighter winds and increasingly close racing.
Throughout the Christmas weekend, teams were continually in sight of their rivals as they entered the final stage of the long and cold leg from Buenos Aires to Wellington. BG Spirit and Vaio once crossed within metres of each other, waving to each other in a bizarre match race that reflected the meagre distances between teams across the fleet, even after 5000nm.
Crew Volunteers and skippers knew when they signed up for the race around the world the wrong way, that Christmas would come after a gruelling month of sailing into a series of low-pressure systems that bring high winds and excruciatingly cold waves.
However, the sun made an unusual appearance on Christmas Day, adding the edge to what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Uncharacteristically,” wrote Ellen Coomber from Spirit of Sark, “the sun was shining and giving out some warmth and the sea was deep blue – beautiful. What a fantastic day for Christmas.”
David Roche, aboard Imagine It. Done, agreed that the rare sunshine was, “a welcome change from two weeks of slate grey Southern Ocean seascapes.” Demonstrating one of the various oddities of spending Christmas at sea, he added, “I unwrapped my presents by the light of my bunk and never have I been so grateful, nor will I ever be so grateful again, to receive a new pair of underpants and socks!”
Christmas carols were sung on deck, tearful satellite phone calls were made to various relatives across the world and the fleet enjoyed an alternative nativity play across 12 yachts, 3 radio frequencies and 2 radio bands.
But as crews wrote of their surprise that they still managed to attain the feeling of Christmas over-indulgence despite their unusual situation, the sailing took hold again as the festivities signalled thoughts of the finish line. And, more importantly, the remarkable fact that most of the fleet still has a realistic chance of winning at this late stage.
In the short term, BP Explorer now looks set to extend their hard won fragile lead over 2nd place Spirit of Sark over the next 24-hours. With the worst of the barren patch of wind developing to the west and south of the fleet, their position as the most northerly team could serve them well.
Team Stelmar were heading north of the course this morning, “to try and skirt an approaching storm and get into safer shipping lane waters,” in the words of skipper Clive Cosby. “Now we are headed west again to get some miles in the right direction under our belt.” Currently 3,439nm behind BP Explorer, having rejoined the race after their second medical evacuation of this leg, they have a huge psychological challenge ahead of them as they make their way to Wellington in time for mandatory maintenance work. They will be taking on a more northerly course in an attempt to avoid the worst of the Southern Ocean now that they do not have the fleet around them, which serves as its own safety net in an emergency.
1. BP Explorer 1,220nm to the finish
2. Spirit of Sark 1,223nm to the finish
3. BG SPIRIT 1,240nm to the finish
4. Samsung 1,240nm to the finish
5. SAIC La Jolla 1,246nm to the finish
6. VAIO 1,247nm to the finish
7. Me to You 1,253nm to the finish
8. Barclays Adventurer 1,261nm to the finish
9. Team Save the Children 1,270nm to the finish
10.Imagine It. Done. 1,334nm to the finish
11.Pindar 1,480nm to the finish
12.Team Stelmar 3,439nm to the finish