VOR crews face reality as icy cold conditions set in on approach to the Horn 28/2/06

Despite the ideal, fast reaching conditions in 20kts under masthead spinnakers crews aboard the VOR yachts have been reporting dismal conditions over the last few days. The sea and air temperatures are dropping, and for Team Ericsson who not only experienced a nasty time-consuming knockdown on Sunday, they have a problem with their onboard heaters and cold and crew fatigue is beginning to take effect.

Commenting after the setback at the weekend, Steve Hayles from Ericsson reported: “It’s starting to feel properly cold now and we can’t use our heaters as a charging problem is chewing through our diesel at a higher rate than we planned for. The whole crew is exhausted and yet we need to push harder to stay in the hunt. A day like today will be hard to forget and although I know we will laugh about it one day, right now it sits as a reminder of how close to edge we are. Suddenly, Life at the Extreme doesn’t seem like just a catchy slogan.”

Team movistar have experienced heater problems too. Bouwe Bekking added: “Last night was the coldest up to now, so Capey (Andrew Cape) thought we should give the heater a go. Always an argument, some are in favour some against using it. In favour because it is nice warm, against heaps of condensation and it starts ‘raining’ inside from of the ceiling. But Capey won, but not for long. After 5 minutes running the thing it was more foggy inside the boat than outside. Pure exhaust fumes filled the interior. Capey, stubborn as he can be, said: this is just the start up and most of it is steam. But is got worse and worse, so finally switched the damn thing off and had to open all the hatches, so it way colder than before. As Skippy (Chris Nicholson) is in charge of this department, and happens also to be one of the persons who is against using it, the solution is easy. It won’t get fixed, argument closed!”

Cape Horn is now less than three days away (1,100 nautical miles) and Mike Sanderson and his ABN AMRO One team, still the most southerly yacht, has pulled out a 29-mile advantage over Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Although there is less than a knot of speed between entire fleet right now, the pattern shows those furthest south are currently in a slightly stronger wind band. However, there is a new weather system approaching from behind which will benefit those furthest west who will always be sailing in 2kts more breeze on the approach to the Horn. The next couple of days could see some major changes in the fleet on the approach to the next scoring mark that has another 3.5 points on offer.