“It has been a tough leg,” says Josh Hall as Gartmore arrives in Norfolk VA to claim fourth place in the EDS Atlantic Challenge
There’s no official confirmation as yet but according to figures polled at 1045 GMT this morning, Gartmore was but a single mile from the finish and making over nine knots. It’s never over until it’s over but the Fat Lady was striding up to the mic and, unless she tripped, she should be singing by now.
It’s been a long, lonely race for the crew of Gartmore. Their decision to leave the northerly course – clearly the winning route – and sail between the honeypot of the Azores High and the lows that barrel across between 45-60° north certainly gave them an easier ride than the leaders and lowered the probability of damage, so often the bane of Hall’s solo career. However, it also meant he had to rely on others’ gear failure for any hope of a podium finish.
About five hours earlier, Gartmore was making gentle progress through the final 30 miles of this 3,000-mile leg, in stark contrast with the previous evening. “The small but very active depression that passed just to our south provided some large steep waves and some very solid wind for 18 hours. Speed was up and so was the adrenalin as under double reefed mainsail and Solent we flew west at 20 knots.
“Unfortunately as the wind built we completely exploded our new spinnaker. We managed to retrieve it from the sea but it will keep the sail loft busy for a while when we arrive! We had a team cry, a team berating of the helmsman and then set the Code 5.
“It has been a tough leg this one, but we are arriving content that we made the most of the weather that was thrown at us and took a risky option that nearly paid off. Our green machine has looked after us well and we have provided her with a happy, comic crew – we have had so many laughs.
“We all take our sailing very seriously but all have a good sense of humour as well. We have tried to share that with race followers in our daily logs and hope we have raised a smile sometimes.”
That leaves AlphaGraphics. The 1045 GMT figures leave her 633 miles from the finish line and fifth place (Fila has retired and is heading directly for Boston in readiness for the start of the fifth leg) and making less than spectacular progress, as skipper Helena Darvelid explains.
“Down to second reef and staysail, beating into a fairly large swell. It is getting very bouncy and rather difficult to do anything: go to the loo, make a cup of tea or even get dressed.”
Life will be smoother on AlphaGraphics now that she has passed through the cold front and into 12-15-knot northwesterly winds. These will veer into the northeast during the day and provided AlphaGraphics doesn’t stray into the high pressure passing to her north, she should make good progress today.
Whether she makes it into Norfolk in time to make the 4 August start of the fourth leg, from Baltimore to Boston is open to question. What is clear is that they won’t be doing much sightseeing if they do make it.