Isle of Man leads as the BT Challenge fleet splits at their waypoint, and Save the Children face a harsh penalty that could put them in last place

The BT Global Challenge fleet is being split as they round a waypoint in the Southern Ocean. Earlier today, Lin Parker and crew on Isle of Man were the first to pass waypoint Charlie, at 52°S, 120°W, followed 13 miles behind by Conrad Humphreys and his crew on LG FLATRON.

Both boats benefited from their decision to stay north by laying the mark in one, while others are paying dearly for following the Great Circle course. As northerly winds persist, those to the south, including Logica, Norwich Union and Veritas, face a long tack to get up to the waypoint. Logica is currently 70 miles south-east, Norwich Union 78 miles and Veritas 130 miles away. By the time each has rounded the waypoint, the distance from the frontrunners will have increased even further.

Manley Hopkinson on Olympic Group is another who will be rewarded for staying north and is set to be fourth round after Compaq. Neither Quadstone nor Spirit of Hong Kong was quite able to lay the mark, but both will stay in the leading bunch.

Crews parted from the leaders will find the second half of the Southern Ocean more of an uphill task. As Tim Thomas’s accounts on this site illustrate, optimism can be a friable asset. His latest two reports, filed less than 12 hours apart, show the pronounced swing of mood on board, from fighting talk to despair and recriminations, as the crew of Norwich Union see how much they have lost out.

Another dejected crew must be Save the Children’s. Having managed to keep BP Explorer at bay this week, they are now facing the possibility of being last anyway. The international jury has penalised them by one point, the equivalent of one place, for accidentally running their engine in gear. The decision is being considered, but if it stands the odds are that Save the Children will end up in last place on this leg and overall as well.

They had run their engine for 20 minutes at 800 rpm as part of the fleet’s weekly routine but inadvertently did so in gear. After making a 720° turn voluntarily, skipper Nick Fenton told the race jury of the infringement.

But while the jury can impose a 720° penalty turn, it can only be taken voluntarily for a tactical breach – and Save the Children’s infringement falls under a different part of the race rules. So although the jury accepted that Save the Children ‘gained minimal advantage’, they ruled that the penalty turn was ‘inappropriate and inadequate’.

The case is, however, being looked at again as the technicalities of Fenton’s application may not have been valid.

At the rear of the fleet, Mark Denton and his crew on BP Explorer continue to suffer from their late start after taking on contaminated fuel in Buenos Aires. They have been the backmarker ever since, are currently about 200 miles behind Isle of Man and still very sour about their misfortune.