The divided fleet races towards the trade winds while crew members weather their own...
Samsung, skippered by Aussie Matt Riddell, has taken over the prestigious 1st place in the Global Challenge as the lead yacht in the westerly group of the fleet, now split in two.
East and West now battle it out as they race towards the trade winds, which the yachts will reach in around 300 miles.
The fleet has just passed the Canary Islands in two distinct fleets. In the past few days the westerly yachts have enjoyed an advantage over the easterly yachts, which have passed through the Canary Islands looking for the Wind Acceleration Zone – the wind tunnel that occurs as wind passes between islands, such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
A low pressure forming to the west of the fleet will bring south westerly winds, bringing to an end the reaching run for the westerly yachts. Conversely there seems to be a north east breeze along the African coast within reach of the easterly yachts. In the meantime, stable weather and lighter headwinds for the westerly yachts could mean a change in the leader board.
Team Save the Children, skippered by Paul Kelly, which nearly had to divert to the Canary Islands due to a water maker failure, is gambling now to make up the deficit of miles lost over the past few days. They have diverted far east in what looks like a desperate attempt to find the stronger winds nearer to the coast. Time will tell if they can make up the 242 miles they are currently trailing from the leader.
4th place Barclays Adventurer, skippered by Stuart Jackson, looks to be in the most advantageous position, having got back on the Rhumb Line and hence capable of going either west or east.
David Melville, skipper of BP Explorer, currently lying in the middle of the fleet in 8th place explains the recent few days out at sea: “Which way to go? So BG SPIRIT (6th place), Spirit of Sark (7th place) and BP Explorer headed down between these islands in a kind of collective madness. We needed the wind to hold for this to work and inevitably it did not. We sailed slowly….. oh so slowly, between the islands and every position schedule showed a worse and worse picture. It was hell, there is nothing worse than being a skipper and leading your boat into a poor strategic position.
“I felt tense, anxious and miserable the whole day, it was so bad that I had stomach cramps. The only consolation was that we were not on our own. For most of this time Spirit of Sark were within close sight. First and second favourites, according to the bookies anyway, stuck behind an island where they should know better – ridiculous.
“Well we are on our way again. We are out to the east and consider ourselves to be in a three boat race for the next week. Slightly higher speed trade winds are forecast out here and so we should be able to slowly claw back some mileage. So much has happened and we have only been going about 10 days so there is probably another 25 days left to sort this mess out.”
Having to find every inch of mileage from the yachts is hard work and leads to immense frustration. As well as a great deal of soul searching from some, there is also the usual banter from others as Richard Parsons of Team Stelmar (9th place) explains:
“Now there are many criteria for selecting someone to climb the 95 feet to the top of the mast, but today a simple error was made.” The crewmember selected was one that had: a) More or less, been suffering from motion sickness for 10 days. b) Was feeling unwell c) Had just eaten lunch d) Been un-communicative for the last half an hour e) Had never scaled the mast before
“Nevertheless, he was hoisted to the top of the mast to look for wind. After a half an hour at the top and still being un-communicative, even though his primary role there was to communicate, his first clear call was “Look out below!” Instinctively, instead of ducking for cover, all the crew on deck looked heavenwards, which was their second mistake, as they were soon to discover.
“It might not seem funny to you, but for those of us below decks away from the firing line, in a manner of speaking, our day was brightened enormously as the contents of his stomach rained down on the deck above us.
“The queue for the showers shortly afterwards was a source of much amusement for some and considerable embarrassment for others.”
Current team positions:
Position yacht – Distance to finish
1 Samsung – 4339
2 VAIO – 4348
3 SAIC – 4,351
4 Barclays Adventurer – 4,365
5 Imagine It. Done – 4,369
6 BG SPIRIT – 4,408
7 Spirit of Sark – 4,409
8 BP Explorer – 4,412
9 Team Stelmar – 4,476
10 Pindar – 4,482
11 Me to You – 4,518
12 Team Save the Children – 4,581