Matthew Humphries (UK) was just half a point ahead of the New Zealand team going in to the final race of Volvo Baltic Race series
The dock in Sandhamn was silent yesterday morning, on the start day of the 510 nautical mile race, the last in the Volvo Baltic Race series.
The frenzy of removing gear from the boats, seen on Sunday in preparation for the Accenture Round Gotland Race, was replaced, ominously, by a deadly calm. This is the latest tactic employed by the two leading teams, Challenge of Netsurvey with Matthew Humphries (UK) just half a point of Erle Williams (NZ) and TeamRS.
The boats were locked up. No crewmember to be seen, no last minute loading or removing of gear. Everything was quiet.
During the 10 minutes before the gun was fired 12-noon local time, TeamRS hunted down Challenge of Netsurvey and held her out to the left-hand side of the course in true match race style, in an easterly 12-knot breeze. Nilorn, the Swedish Youth Team, had the dream start in the best position, while TeamRS and Challenge of Netsurvey were the last two boats to start, crossing behind the fleet on port tack.
At the windward mark, set one mile from the start line, TeamRS had pulled out a 100-metre lead over Challenge of Netsurvey. Pontona Youth sailed a very good beat to round in third place, one minute later, followed by Atea and Nilorn, who had to tack at the mark, and let Atea through. Elanders Ten Celsius and Sony Ericsson overlapped at the mark with Sony Ericsson gaining the advantage over Elanders.
The next leg to Revenge Lighthouse was a reach. TeamRS held onto her lead from Challenge of Netsurvey at the mark, but were slow setting their spinnaker, while Challenge of Netsurvey showed some slick crew work and made a very quick hoist.
Holding on to third place, Pontona Youth rounded 30 seconds later with Atea and Sony Ericsson right on her tail. After their excellent start, Nilorn dropped quickly back through the fleet, her reaching headsail being much smaller than the rest of the fleet. But they made a superb recovery, hoisting their spinnaker before they reached the mark and bearing away neatly, sailing over Elanders Ten Celsius in the process.
At 1530 local, TeamRS was still ahead of Challenge of Netsurvey. Skipper Matthew Humphries said, “While TeamRS has got ahead of us, we’re happy in our position, maintaining close proximity so that when the wind goes forward, we can take advantage of our boat’s superior upwind ability.”
Mikke Lundh, co-skipper of Elanders Ten Celsius, reporting by satellite phone this afternoon, added that fog was closing in on the fleet, with visibility down to 50 – 60 metres at times. The wind was north-easterly 18 – 20 knots and the seaway is sloppy.
The course will take the fleet on a spinnaker run down to the Southern tip of Sweden, where they will then face a 180 nm beat to the finish in Marstrand in a forecast north or north-westerly breeze of 20-30 knots.