Brits fight it out for second place in class 1

Mike Golding and Josh Hall have a lot in common. They are professional racing sailors in their late 30s. They are in command of powerful Open 60s sprung from the same mold. They share the same dream and goal of becoming the first English skipper to win the Around Alone race. And this morning, they’re even pondering the same dilemma. Namely, how does one get ahead of a Frenchman named Marc Thiercelin? At today’s 0940 GMT position update, it was Thiercelin who continued to set the pace as the leaders in Class I neared the halfway point of the challenging, oftentimes frustrating voyage from Charleston to Cape Town. Thiercelin’s own Finot 60, SOMEWHERE, was 3,924 miles from the finish line–and 15 miles ahead of Golding’s Team Group 4 in the Distance to Finish column–early today. Hall’s Gartmore Investment Management was 47 miles behind SOMEWHERE, which translates into about 4 hours of fast sailing. Isabelle Autissier and PRB continued to hold down fourth place.

In Class II today, J.P. Mouligne had opened up a 37-mile lead over Mike Garside. In third, Brad Van Liew was 47 miles behind Mouligne. As they say on Wall Street, there was an overnight “correction” in the middle of the Class II pack, as Robin Davie and Neal Petersen popped past George Stricker and Minoru Saito, respectively, to secure the fourth and fifth places in the fleet. Petersen, who longs for the day when he trades in his faithful but old 40-foot No Barriers for a faster, modern racing boat, is on a tear. He is not only ahead of Stricker’s and Saito’s bigger 50-footers, he’s also just 25 miles behind Davie’s new 50-foot South Carolina.

Things are interesting at the front of Class I, too. In a weekend message, Hall described a couple of incidents from a busy week. While skirting to the west of Tropical Storm Lisa, Hall said, “Strong northeasterly then easterly winds made for some very fast sailing and at times our rocketship was blasting along at up to 28 knots and was almost under control while doing so! In the large, confused seas the boat was slamming off some waves badly and in one major free fall the masthead light and wind instrument wand exploded off. [Mike Golding lost the exact equipment in the same storm.] This means for the rest of the leg I will have no wind which is a bit of a disadvantage.” But that was by no means the end of Hall’s dramas. “As the conditions abated,” he said, “I could see that some of the grub screws holding our headsail furling system had worked loose. In still lumpy seas a trip up the forestay [for repairs] was in order. I rigged up the bosun’s chair and hauled myself aloft. It was an exhausting journey climbing and hanging on tight as each wave tried to bounce me around like a rag doll. Job done, I went to release the line to descend to find that it was jammed. Not good. Stuck halfway up the forestay, getting dark, squall line of wind approaching–definitely a Hamlet moment! There was nothing for it but to climb out of the bosun’s chair and descend by hand. Suffice to say I was a pretty happy camper to reach the deck!”

Hall and Golding today were enjoying better conditions. “This is tradewind sailing,” wrote Golding. “I’ve probably slept for twelve of the last 24 hours, conditions are so steady… SOMEWHERE is still a long way south and has made more miles on [us]… I am still sure that [Thiercelin] will come into the southeast trades too soon and end up battling to round Recife, Brazil. The fact that Josh and Isabelle have lined up behind me gives further credibility as any one of us could bear away a few degrees and go a hell of a lot faster though only Marc has chosen to do that. If this is right I am in good shape. If somehow Marc squeezes around the corner he will be hard to catch…” Clearly, Golding and Hall are hoping to make a “correction” at the front of the pack.