Logica, leading the BT Global Challenge fleet, manages to squeeze round the coast of Africa and extend their lead over the back of the fleet. Skipper Jeremy Troughton reports:
‘Once through the Doldrums it would have been nice to be further out, clear of the shore effects and there was a long period where the boats behind were making some big gains. However we knew that the fewer miles sailed up to that point would give us a little leeway on the fleet behind. Unfortunately, we did misjudge the wind slightly, and the north-west to west shifts we encountered up the coast kept us pinned further in than we’d have liked. There were a tense couple of days when we effectively rock-hopped across a shallow area with less than 10m under the keel.
‘We did, however, get some amazing lifts due to current and tidal flows around the Archipelago Dos Bijagos, which was interesting, as were the number of small unlit fishing craft which made this section of the journey even more sleepless than the heat normally would. We have now cleared them and are exactly where we want to be as we close on Cape Vert, and Dakar.
‘The wind has been playing around between the north west and west, but as we press northwards this will back to the north and then north east. When this happens we want to be on the inside of the shift to enable the biggest gains to be made on the pursuing pack, that is we effectively want to be east of our closest rivals, exactly where we are at the moment.’
Meanwhile, at the back of the fleet, some 300 miles behind Logica, only 40 miles separate the last four boats. They are still languishing in lighter and more variable conditions, but recent days have seen some of the closest racing of all. Having slid back to an all too familiar last place, Manley Hopkinson, skipper of Olympic Group, reports:
‘I think it was Juicy who first spotted them, which in itself shows how engrossed we were for, by her own admission, she is as blind as a bat. But there was Veritas with her distinctive black spinnaker closing quickly on our starboard quarter. She did well since the last sched, as then we had a lead on her of 17 miles. It is incredible just how localised the winds are.
‘The satellites and fancy imagery produced by computers that have more processing power now than all the computers in the world a few years back cannot tell at all what is actually going on locally. Each cloud brings with it something quite different from its near identical neighbour. It is impossible to be able to predict this random behaviour from space, I believe. Satellites can only assist in giving a general overview, and for that we are grateful!
‘Slowly Veritas was catching up. It was clear that our courses were converging. Her bearing remained the same but she was getting closer. The wind steadied somewhat as the sky cleared. The steady rotation of the wind had momentarily given way to a fairly constant breeze with just a little oscillation of about 30° (trust me, that is a “little oscillation”). At one moment Veritas was about a quarter of a mile to starboard on the beam. Then a slight wind shift and they were ahead as our aspects had changed. Ouch! They had sailed right over us. Obviously, we had not read that one very well.
‘We sucked them back in to that quarter of a mile as night fell. That is a mere couple of hundred yards. Despite the darkness their form could clearly be seen, and with the help of the light gathering binoculars we could see when there was activity on deck. Suddenly, we started gaining big time. So much so that there was a real risk of a collision . We sprinted on deck to see them wallowing just off our bow, collapsed spinnaker while ours pulled well. We were going to have to duck them to avoid them. Mid ocean collision avoidance!
‘Then our sails died too. Drop the kite, hoist the genoa – and fast.
We came hard up to wind making just east of north as Veritas still bore away and by the time they came rou