"You cannot afford to rest for a mere minute as the boats behind will pounce," says BG Spirit skipper
Andy Forbes reports from BG Spirit in second place at 22 miles behind Sark:
2400 miles down and you would have thought the race had only just begun. Cape Horn has gone and Waypoint Alpha (our imaginary rounding point in the Southern Ocean) beckons a mere 1000 miles away. The last 36 hrs has seen a huge change in the fleet positions as we all converged into a windless hole yesterday. I am sure that all the skippers looked at their weather files 2 or 3 days ago and said: ‘Now what?’ Having been given fantastic conditions round the Horn and a good old bash upwind for a couple of days the weather gods decided it would be nice to mix things up a bit.
The boats in the North looked to be sitting pretty. Sark and ourselves were having a lovely little one to one and our positions would change almost every schedule. The boats to the south were having their own fun as they too swapped places almost hourly. Two days ago the weather pattern changed. The skies cleared, the breeze dropped, and the fleet relaxed. A very large wind hole was appearing on all the weather faxes and in the daily Grib files we receive. Talk was entirely around whether or not we avoid this hole. Put simply the answer was no. The boats to the North and the West were first to suffer as they ploughed in with the hope of getting out the other side before too much of their precious lead was diminished. The boats to the south were screaming north west and the boats in the east were headed due west with spinnakers flying. We could do nothing but watch as our lead was eaten up by the minute. My saving grace was that there was no way round the hole and that soon all the boats would slow. It was painful to watch. We had parked and as usual had Sark in sight. Then as if by magic the fleet converged in what could almost be termed as a restart. BP appeared from behind, SAIC and Kids just north with Vaio leading up the boats from the south. I am absolutely amazed that this fleet is still so closely matched. This morning you could cast a net over at least 8 of us. The breeze is shifty and on deck it’s freezing. You cannot afford to rest for a mere minute as the boats behind will pounce. Sail changes are slick and endless.
The crew is on constant alert to react to every small shift and gust. The tension is incredible as each 6 hourly update arrives with gains and losses measured to the metre. We have Sark just ahead and BP along with Kids just to the East with Vaio and Me to you South. We seem set to have a decent few days wind ahead so as ever the race will go on.
Crew work is the key and motivation to keep going the answer. This leg is far from finished and long may racing this close continue. Enjoy your week ahead – and watch this space.