Georgia Williams, a journalist aboard third-placed Me to You, says the racing on Leg 6 of the Global Challenge is about as exciting as it gets

The incredibly close battle being fought mid-Atlantic by the Global
Challenge fleet is about as exciting as it gets even for the most hard-core
adrenaline junkie.

Crew aboard the 12 competing yachts are currently working flat out as the
boats leap-frog each other up and down the position table. Just a few miles
separates the leading pack, having sailed nearly 1,500 miles in exhilarating
downwind conditions since departing Boston a week ago.

The team on board Me To You are all fired up and hungry for a podium finish
and Champagne celebrations in La Rochelle. But the competition is fierce as the yachts will then race on for their final homebound stretch into Portsmouth.

Our tactics are currently paying off, having gone from an initial second place, then down to 10th and now back up to third. It is heart-in-your-mouth ocean racing, but with another 1,500 miles to go the crew know they cannot be complacent.

Crew member Nicola Paterson said: “We are doing everything within our power to make the boat go faster, whether it’s ensuring we get enough nutrients and sleep when off watch, or hoisting and dropping sails on deck to ensure we maintain our maximum target boat speed.”

Weather-beaten sails that have now circumnavigated the globe are being pushed to their limit, sometimes with disastrous results. Crew aboard Samsung – now trailing last on this leg – have reported two blown spinnakers, where a gust or difficult sail change leaves the material ripped to shreds. As a result Samsung anticipates reaching France two days behind the rest of the fleet.

Whether surfing down waves at blistering 13knots boat speed or eeking slowly along in
frustratingly light winds, the close-knit team on board Me To You are having their physical and mental capacities stretched to the limit. Rotating in a 24 hour watch system, they clamber off deck to collapse exhausted into their cramped bunks. But, just like Ellen MacArthur during her circumnavigation record, it is essential they maintain stamina levels if they are to keep up the pace for the ensuing week-long sprint. A fitful few hours of sleep are snatched and vital rehydrated meals and energy drinks are consumed before it is time for another watch change-over and they return to battle the wind and seas on deck. This relentless cycle is repeated five times a day by each of the two watches.

Skipper James Allen said: “It’s very close and having the competing yachts
visible on the horizon has been a huge motivator. We’ve gone from second to
10th and now back up to third. But the main problem on this leg is that everyone is in the same weather system, which makes significant gains very difficult and we can easily move up and down a few places just by gaining or losing a mile.”

This was clearly illustrated yesterday when essential repairs meant Me To
You were a few minutes late hoisting a sail change. As a direct result they lost four crucial miles on the whole fleet. But sticking south as the majority of the yachts maintain a northerly course has paid off as Me To You fight tooth and nail to cling on to their third place position.

James added: “We are having to keep 100 per cent focused to keep the boat
speed up. We just need to get a few more good results in on the six hourly
position reports. This will give us a cushion against the three yachts that
are just within six miles behind us, and allow us to concentrate on closing
in on the two leading yachts Stelmar and SAIC in front. At the moment it is
all within our grasp and it looks like it’ll be an extremely exciting finish
into La Rochelle.”

On receiving the latest positive position report, watch leader Peter
Robinson said: “We’re a fast boat and know we can do well, as we proved when
we came third into Sydney. It is very exciting and difficult to sleep when
it is this close.”