Team LogicaCMG retains lead in the Round Britain Challenge as fleet heads up west coast of Ireland

The yachts in the Round Britain Challenge have now all reached their first critical milestone, Waypoint Alpha, taking them around the rocky West Coast of Ireland and with it LogicaCMG has clenched the lead over BG Group.

At present the weather is “an incredible oily calm”, according to Graham Keating, aboard the Daily Telegraph, and yacht races are often won and lost in light winds such as these. The three leading yachts, LogicaCMG, BG Group and Spirit of Southampton have put a further 12 miles between themselves and the chasing group but are still separated by just three miles.

In mid fleet Basilica have reduced the Daily Telegraph’s lead in half, according to Jim Allen, skipper of the Daily Telegraph, “Basilica are now only 1.8 miles behind.” He reported a fantastic atmosphere and noted that being within sight of another boat was “good for motivation” but stressed that the team’s main concern is catching the leading pack.

“We want to make sure nobody gets tired so we don’t make any mistakes, so when the leader’s make mistakes we’ll make up the ground. We are concentrating hard. It’s great to be up in the top four.”

Every 12 hours the boats hold a ‘chat show’, a formal exchange of information such as positions and crew welfare. After the formalities there is an opportunity for the Crew Volunteers to converse informally but Graham commented, “it is an indication of how serious this competition is to the competitors that the informal communication has been very limited. Everyone is being very careful what they are saying – I haven’t spoken to my wife yet!”

John Crawford, skipper of Basilica, is well aware that he and Daily Telegraph are neck and neck. Heeding Sir Chay Blyth’s advice in the pre-race briefing, “trim, trim, trim” is apparently the order of the day to make the most of light winds. He is “hunting them down” and sees himself at the tail end of the leading pack, reiterating the emphasis that all eyes are on the leaders. “Daily Telegraph is ahead of us on the starboard side and the leaders are only two hours ahead although we can’t see them as visibility is poor.” Two of John’s crew volunteers, John and Sue Cooper (no relation) are celebrating their birthdays today and he demonstrated his compassion towards John who is one of the key trimmers: “I gave him three minutes off to eat some of the cake which Lesley has made on board before sending him back to his winch!” Sue celebrated in style with a hot shower and seemed to be enjoying her mid-race birthday,

“I got a water pistol for my birthday and Graham was given a birthday badge, both lovingly wrapped in jay cloths and insulating tape! A drink would be nice but it’s a fantastic place to be – I’d much rather be out here than in the office. A good birthday present would be getting closer to the leader…”

The next key stage is a straight run to St Kilda further offshore. John boasted that he “has a couple of tactical genius’ on board” and implied that they were waiting to make their move. Moving away from the sensitive subject of tactics he added: “The most important thing is applying pressure on the leaders and I’m delighted we’re still on the pace. There is a long way to go – it’s all about boat husbandry, looking after the people and the boat.” As the competition intensifies Basilica have continued ‘hot bunking’, the system used to distribute body weight across the boat. Crews are prohibited from moving any objects once they are in position so any advantage gained from the positioning of people is sought after.

The Daily Telegraph reported “no damage” despite the eventful start in the Solent and they will be hoping to retain their untarnished record as the race progresses.

If the predicted wind comes in from the south this will put the tail end of the pack in a good position to make up some ground on the rest of the fleet. Team Spirit have fallen a further three miles behind while the gap between Vail Williams and Spirit of Hong Kong has doubled to four miles. With such short distances between the two battling for mid fleet domination and the trio fighting for supremacy, expect to see some changes on the leader-board overnight.