The forecast gale hit the Global Challenge fleet slightly earlier than expected - currently beating into 30-40kts of wind

Just over 2,000nm from Wellington the Global Challenge yacht crews were surprised by a rapid onslaught of gale force winds yesterday afternoon. A front passing over the fleet brought high winds well before forecasts had predicted, prompting an exhausting journey through the whole sail wardrobe to keep up as the wind increased “from a dead calm to gale force in a couple of hours” according to BP Explorer skipper David Melville.

“We have rapidly worked our way through every headsail on the boat,” continued David, “now under Yankee No 3 [smallest headsail], storm staysail and triple reefed main.”

Most of the teams were hard on the wind, beating into winds gusting up to 40 knots. James Allen, skipper of Me to You described the sea state as very rough, making life onboard far more lively than they had expected:

“We are currently experiencing more wind than was forecast so we are beating into 30-40 knot winds and big seas. This is obviously very hard work. However, these conditions are when we have previously made our biggest gains so we are pushing hard again, constantly ensuring we are on the most favourable tack and going as fast we can.”

As the low-pressure systems to the south and east intensify, the gale force winds will shift round to the south-west for the whole fleet. They will remain through today before easing off on Friday when the next low-pressure system comes through, according to the forecast.

The mid-fleet five are still fighting it out in close quarters, now all separated by just 7nm in terms of distance to leader. However, leg 1 winners Barclays Adventurer looks to be making a move south towards the leading pack chasing down 1st place Spirit of Sark. Essentially, though, they are still side-by-side in relation to the expanse of Southern Ocean they are sailing through, and sightings of other yachts have continued.

In other news, the dismantling of an international space station is causing a mixture of amusement and concern across the fleet today. As VAIO’s daily log explains, the Emergency Maritime Centre in New Zealand sent an unusual email to the yachts that read: “Area temporarily dangerous to navigation from falling spacecraft.” “Since this message came through,” explained the crew, “our concerned skipper Amedeo has been on deck 24-hours a day, patrolling the good ship VAIO, watching the skies and trying to keep us safe from interplanetary craft.”

“Team SAIC La Jolla are well prepared,” according to their daily log, “having already drawn straws for the two crash helmets on board and a 24-hour space station lookout.”