Freeing winds are about to mark a change in the tactics and preoccupations of the Global Challenge fleet
Three days out from Portsmouth, the 12 Global Challenge yachts have reached much more agreeable conditions as they approach the north-western corner of Spain. Indeed, with Biscay mostly behind them, it is possible that the early beating of their first night at sea could well be the only really unpleasant weather they encounter for the whole of the leg to Buenos Aires.
At the front of the fleet is Duggie Gillespie and his crew on Isle of Sark. They have led conclusively since the Solent, despite a brief problem when the mainsail reportedly fell down. The crew did not reveal what the cause was, but it clearly did not handicap them for long.
At present, BP Explorer is struggling to remedy a problem that developed last night with their Telaurus system, which is used to download compressed weather data, such as GRB files and infrared satellite images. Until they fix this problem, which Challenge Business believe is a glitch in the software or set-up rather than a failure of equipment, they will have to rely on their own interpretation of weatherfaxes received via HF radio.
The fleet began to spread out slightly in the last 24 hours and now ranges across an arc of over 40 miles. In the first few days, Save the Children took the most noteworthy course by dodging west at Ushant in the hope of picking up stronger winds earlier than their rivals. This lonesome tactic did not pay for them, and they have since sailed back into the pack, where they are lying last on the somewhat deceptive league table of distance to finish.
All are experiencing lighter winds and are gradually being freed off as they head for Cape Finisterre. This can be a bumpy old part of the world, as you come off deep ocean depths and cut over the corner of the Continental Shelf. Traditionally, however, winds and seas smooth away after this famous milestone and, with daytime temperatures rising noticeably, watches will become increasingly pleasant.
We know that seasickness is abating and crews are beginning to fall into the routine of life at sea because they are already starting to write about food. References to diet and bodily functions tend to multiply in inverse proportion to wind strength.
Forecasts suggest that tomorrow the fleet will encounter better winds and the damp effects of a warm front bisecting the north-west corner of Spain. This will bring favourable, and slightly stronger, north-easterlies and in the next 24 hours or so we can expect the crews to have their first taste of spinnaker sailing – and, perhaps, read the first log reports of spinnaker repairs.