Garside regains his advantage over Mouligne, extending his lead, but hold on tight - here comes Yazykov!

In a back-and-forth battle being played out on a frustrating patchwork of ocean, Mike Garside this morning had regained the upper hand over J.P. Mouligne as the two Class II skippers tried desperately to break free from the frustrating grasp of the doldrums. At 0944 GMT this morning, by virtue of a 114-mile 24-hour run, Garside had opened up an 88-mile lead over Mouligne, who’d traveled only 92 miles during the same reporting interval. Furthermore, at the early report Garside was averaging 4.9 knots of boatspeed, almost double that of Mouligne’s 2.5 knots. Both sailors should be advised to stay away from sharp objects when reviewing the numbers of overall and Class I leader Giovanni Soldini. At 0940 GMT Soldini was smoking off to the northwest at a crisp average speed of over 13 knots, and led second-place skipper Marc Thiercelin by a whopping 397 miles. Soldini was 2,298 miles from the finish line early today.

Garside, who has made a regular habit of losing leads to Mouligne throughout not only Around Alone, but last summer’s Atlantic Alone qualifying race, is doing everything in his power to hold and extend his advantage. In a COMSAT email to his support crew yesterday, he wrote: “My 200-mile lead is now down to under 100 and the boy (J.P.) is closing. The only two good bits of fortune I’m having are that I have been able to get west enough (the only way the wind would let me go!) so that at least I have now put myself between J.P. and the finishing line. The second is that the wind has now backed so that, instead of heading back to Brazil, I am…pointing at Charleston.

“Extraordinary how things go,” he added. “Marc had almost closed on Gio [several days ago], but slightly to the east of him. He then started to lose ground… As I closed up on them both I tried to head slightly more to the west. Suddenly Gio broke free and Marc and I were trapped with tons of rain and no wind. Now I’m making two knots towards the finish. If I didn’t have two knots of the South Equatorial Current pushing me I would be here forever, it seems.” Garside this morning has a touch more breeze, but he is also aware – from recent painful experience – that it may vanish instantly.

Mouligne also realizes that he is in an extremely changeable situation. Yesterday, he wrote, “On Friday my deficit on [Garside] had stretched to over 230 miles and this morning (Monday) it had shrunk back to 68 miles! We are engaged in a battle of slowness, with shifty winds mixed with flat calms and squalls. This is the worst part of the trip but also for me the chance to come back… The wind has been very light for the most part and it takes constant attention to keep the boat moving. The most frustrating thing is that I am forced to take a reef whenever the wind gets really light, to keep the slapping of the mainsail from destroying my fragile repair patches. The key is not to lose your nerves and to stay focused. I am on the edge but I am gaining…” This morning, of course, Mouligne’s charge has at least temporarily been thwarted. But he is now within striking range.

Remarkably, so too is third-place Class II skipper Viktor Yazykov, who at 0944 GMT trailed Mouligne by 173 miles but was making close to 7 knots. Yazykov has worked wonders with his 40-foot Wind of Change throughout the race, and continues to do so in the latter stages. Three days ago, Yazykov was 335 miles behind Mouligne and seemingly out of contention. But he is bringing breeze with him and, like the figurative tortoise, he is gaining steadily on the hares. If he continues to hold his current pace, Mouligne will have someone in addition to Garside to worry about.