West pays for Global Challenge yachts, and water poses a problem for Save the Children

Keeping west has paid off handsomely for the international skippers in the Global Challenge yachts, catapulting all but one into the leading pack. Finnish skipper Eero Lehtinen currently holds 1st place in SAIC, marginally ahead of Australian Matt Riddell in Samsung while, on their flank, Italian skipper Amedeo Sorrentino is in pursuit in Vaio.

To the east of this widely spaced bunch, two match races are in progress. Former leaders Spirit of Sark and BP Explorer are reaching due south, presumably sailing their fastest angle as the wind is forecast to veer. They are only a few miles apart on the same longitude so they must be able to see each other clearly. Team Stelmar and Barclays Adventurer are also close together and, if not actually in sight, would be able to spot one another on radar.

As the race continues, one pressing problem being faced by the race organisers is a watermaker fault on Save the Children. A leak in the fitting on top of one of the membranes has prevented the crew making significant amounts of water and although they, race technical team and the supplier are still working to fix this, a decision needs be made by tonight as to whether Save the Children should stop in the Canary Islands to top up tanks and get spares. They have a reserve of 1,000 litres in two sealed tanks, but with 18 people, a diet of largely dehydrated food and another 25-27 days to Buenos Aires, skipper Paul Kelly is reluctant to continue without more water by some means.

Crews on the yachts are still licking their wounds after a thumping last week when they saw winds of 40-plus knots, but although it has calmed, wave action has claimed another victim. Sophie Luther, a paid-up member of the Pindar sailing team who is crewing on Pindar, was reportedly swept overboard through the guardrails to the end of her lifeline last night. She hurt her back as she was bashed against the boat, but reported today: “The Pindar nipper is OK and I will be back on deck as soon as possible.”

Elsewhere in the fleet, Spirit of Sark was “very, very close” to a lightning strike during the weekend, according to Challenge Business logistics director Alistair Hackett. Probably as a result, she has no data from the masthead wind instruments. “B&G think the masthead PCB may be damaged,” Hackett says, adding that the problem could be terminal until repairs can be made in port.

By the end of this week, the yachts should have picked up the tradewinds and be able to put in some consistently high daily runs as they barrel downwind under spinnaker. Further south, they need to keep an eye on a tropical wave west of the Cape Verdes, with its cluster of electrical storms and unpredictable squalls. However, in a day or two overnight temperatures will start to become balmy and the crews will have their first taste – maybe literally – of flying fish.

Expect many fishy tales in the daily logs as they strike surprised crewmembers from behind, leap down hatches and magically appear in bowls of food.