BG Group, winner of the first leg of the Challenge Transat and dockside favourite for the second leg, took a good start but an interesting tactical decision by the skipper John "JB" Burfitt has had detrimental results

The Challenge Transat yachts are currently experiencing heavy winds as they head towards Southampton, from Boston on their second leg of the race.

BG Group, winner of the first leg and dockside favourite for this second leg, took a good start but an interesting tactical decision by the skipper John “JB” Burfitt has had detrimental results. Burfitt went off on a flyer to the north in search of an incremental wind advantage but in his quest, hit high seas which not only hampered his progress, leaving him 125 miles behind the fleet, but now is carrying an injured mate, Laurence ‘Loz’ Marriott.

JB reported from the yacht: “Loz has taken a fall in the cockpit, he’s strapped into his bunk now on doctor’s orders and doped up on pain killers. We were quite concerned about him, he’s almost certainly damaged some ribs. He’s keeping a cheerful exterior despite the obvious discomfort and frustration. I’ve got to keep the boat and crew safe and I’ve lost my right hand man.”

Now that the first mate is laid up, full time command of the yacht and crew will fall exclusively on the shoulders of the skipper. With at least another few days of sailing ahead of him, this means JB will find little time for rest.

Marriott’s injury only compounds an already serious competitive setback for BG Group. According to Commanders’ Weather conditions where BG Group is sailing are only going to get rougher over the next two days. “Sea conditions up there are going to be very bad,” said George Caras of Commanders’ Weather. “We are talking about mostly following seas and they could be up to 30ft.”

Meanwhile the three boats sailing south of the leaders, Spirit of Hong Kong, Team Spirit and BP Explorer, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, may finally get a break. “Sea conditions down where they are will be much smoother,” said Caras, “and they should have decent winds. So, we could see them gain a bit on the leaders as BG Group may fall even further back.”

The two leaders, Vail Williams in first, and Logica nine miles behind in second, continue sailing a nearly mistake-free race. Both yachts chose a conservative strategy that kept them hugging the rhumline. Neither yacht succumbed to the temptation to chase elusive currents or winds far off the beaten track.

With less than 1,200 n miles in front of the leader, it is likely the first boat will cross the finish line late Sunday or Monday. After a couple of days of fast sailing today and tomorrow it is likely the boats furthest back will move closer to the front, compressing the fleet a bit more than it is now. Once BG Group gets closer to the rhumline its deficit may shrink a bit. But, it appears highly unlikely that BG Group will claim better than third place. And, if anything else goes wrong for the team, even that prize may elude them.