Garside makes a break by diving south

It’s a whole new boat race for Mike Garside. Even though his new Groupe Finot Open 50 Magellan Alpha appears every bit the match for J.P. Mouligne’s impressive Cray Valley, Garside’s early decision to hold a more northerly course line in the opening stages of the Atlantic Alone singlehanded trans-Atlantic race proved disasterous. At one point he trailed Mouligne by well over 200-miles in the quest for Class II honours. And while the tone of his messages to race headquarters remained optimistic, it looked like he would take his only solace by holding off veteran Japanese sailor Minoru Saito (Shuten-dohji II) in the battle for second.

But all that has changed. At a latitude of 29 degrees 21 minutes N, Garside today was the southernmost boat in the Atlantic Alone fleet. And his long, patient effort to get south was paying big dividends. At the 0944 GMT position report, Garside was just 128 miles behind Mouligne in the distance to finish column. And he was clipping along at an average speed of over eight knots, while Mouligne struggled to make three knots. There were more surprises too: Saito, making 6.6 knots, was also making gains, and was only 131 miles behind Garside at the morning update.

The pressure of the chase was beginning to take its toll on Mouligne, who is now in the unfamiliar position of being the object of the hunt. “I am desperately trying to get out of the grip of this high pressure,” he wrote in a message to supporters. “Not much I can do except keep Cray Valley moving at all times and hope for the wind to come back. Although I am still ahead (in my class), my lead has been chopped in half and I will have to work twice as hard for the next few days to stay in the controlling position. I hope you will forgive me for not giving (more) news than this, but I am not in the greatest mood today.”

For his part, Garside is maintaining the air of a sporting chap out for a pleasureable adventure. “I continue to learn new things about the boat all the time and with this knowledge so my preparation for the main event (the Around Alone race this September])improves,” he said in a recent report. “My latest little gem was to discover how to make my gennaker sheets self tail on the winches. I’m sure I should know these little tricks but as a self-taught sailor who has never sailed with anyone more experienced than myself I spend my life re-inventing the wheel!”

At the front of the pack, Giovanni Soldini and FILA continued their blistering pace towards Charleston. Soldini today had opened up a 718 mile lead over Mike Golding and Team Group 4. Soldini was the first to break free of the Azores High, and that has been the story of the race. He maintained a fleet-best average speed of 8.7 knots early today.

Weather-wise, the four sailors behind Soldini are stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is breeze to the north of them: Cold fronts and low-pressure cells continue to tantalizingly track above their collective position. And there is breeze to the south of them: The northeast trades are currently established along a band between latitude 20-25N. But they remain caught in a vacuum of sorts, and there is no clear end in sight. As for the tropical disturbance reported yesterday, today’s weather states that the “system will aim for theNortheast Caribbean next week and conditions will be favorable for development and intensification. We must continue to watch this system closely.”