Four yachts finish leg two of the BT Global Challenge this morning within hours of each other - and others are match racing after 6,000 miles of sailing

After over 6,000 miles of racing, yachts in the BT Global Challenge are finishing within hours of each other. Spirit of Hong Kong arrived in the early hours of this morning, followed within a matter of hours by Logica, Compaq and Olympic Group. Another five yachts are expected to arrive in Buenos Aires today, and in the most dramatic duel of all, Quadstone and BP Explorer are currently match racing up the River Plate to the finishing line less than a mile apart.

Logica’s skipper, Jeremy Troughton, was delighted with 3rd place, but echoes a sentiment heard over and over again here: that it’s been a very demanding leg. “Being becalmed while other boats are moving is frustrating. That was the low point,” he admits. “We were becalmed completely for 8-10 hours and were doing 2-3 knots for the best part of two days. I was getting more twitchy than the crew.”

At the other extreme, he explains, there’s the tension of fast downwind sailing: “We’ve had some pretty hair-raising sailing. You have to be quick on the helming and trimming and we had some quite rolly riding for three or four days.”

Racing has been intense throughout the leg. Logica had three other BT Challenge rivals in sight off the Brazilian coast, after over 4,000 miles of racing. Troughton says that the racing such a closely matched one-design is exacting. “You can’t take anything for granted,” he says. “You have to sail change right on the nose and you have to keep the speed right up. If you have a bad spinnaker drop and lose a few boatlengths, you’ll pay for it. You’re fighting for every mile.” After 33 days of sailing, the difference in average boatspeed between 1st placed LG FLATRON and 3rd placed Logica is less than 0.2 of a knot.

Will Oxley, the Australian skipper of Compaq, also talked about the pressures of racing. For him, the hardest part has been keeping the crew focused on work day and night for over a month. “You can’t explain to them how it’s going to be. And English people find it very hot in the Tropics, so people don’t get enough rest because they’re not sleeping well.”

Logica, which damaged their Sat B dome in a knockdown on the first leg, had another failure on this leg from a fault yet to be traced. This meant they couldn’t download weather information from the internet. It is a measure of this race that lack of internet access is seen as a handicap. “It’s a big advantage I’d like to have had,” says skipper Jeremy Troughton: “We didn’t get a lot of weather information from just before the Doldrums so basically we went with our original plan.”

Will Oxley, skipper of Compaq, who finished less than an hour behind, agrees about the part internet access plays in this race. “We had no weatherfaxes for 12 days – no decent pictures – because there were no stations we could get; they’ve all closed down. So you’re totally relying on images from the internet and forecasts from the UK Met Office, which are a bit variable.”

The last two boats, Norwich Union and Save the Children and due in tomorrow morning.