The Spanish arrive at the dock in the blistering heat of the day 22/1/06

Considering the problems that the Spanish Movistar team has faced in the last 19 days with both structural and hydraulic failures, Bowe Bekking’s team has done well to take third position on this leg.

Having pulled out of the first leg with serious structural problems, the team desperately needed a good position to keep any hope of recovering in the overall running alive. The pressure to succeed was perhaps the very thing that could have scuppered their chances entirely, the start of leg 1 was the clearest indication of what happens when you push too hard aboard these boats.

Yet Bekking and his crew are cool characters. Early on in the proceedings the team took a tactical gamble and stayed to the north west of the rest of the fleet. As ABN AMRO One caught the weather system first, they streaked away from Movistar opening up a gap of several hundred miles.

A cruel blow gave Movistar’s impressive performance out of the Cape Town blocks. But worse was around the corner. A keel ram failure saw the team yank the throttles back and limp into Albany for a 3 hour pit-stop. Yet still the team managed to hang on to third finishing just 17 hours behind ABN One.

“Hearing about Ericsson’s hydraulic problems was a big worry for us as we have the same system. Then to break our own ram when you’re so far away from land is pretty frightening,” he said. “When you’re sailing on just one ram and that snaps, you’re finished.”

While others struggled with ram failure, the issue was all the more difficult to accept for the Movistar team given the boat’s proven reliability in the build up to the event where she had not only clocked up over 20,000 miles, but had set a new world record in the process.

While this last minute change from stainless rams to titanium rams cost the team dearly, third place on this leg certainly keeps them in the race even though deficit of 13.5 points over ABN AMRO One will be difficult to make up.

Meanwhile, as the crew crack open their cold beers and head for the shower, Paul Cayard’s Pirates are staring at a crack of a very different kind and wondering what might happen next.

In his latest email from the boat Cayard says, “It has been a tough night out here on the Great Australian Bight. Thunder, lightening and constant rain have been on the menu. Complete volatility of the wind has made planning a route difficult at best. The big issue is that our keel is getting worse. The keel is wobbling in its bearings and more
water is coming in. There is a left over swell from the northeast which is directly where we need to go. Our course on port tack is straight into this seaway. This creates a violent slamming so for most of the night we simply couldn’t sail on port tack.

So we have been sailing slowly and on the wrong gybe for most of the night just trying to minimize the amount the keel jerks around in its loose structure. Now the sea is smoothing out a bit so we are on port tack trying to get to the north.

“I made a call for more performance and to fit lighter rams,” said Bekking. “That turned out to be an expensive decision so I blame myself for that. We should have stuck with what we had. But that’s how the game’s played. We wanted to develop a bit more horsepower than the others. I’m just pleased we made it here in a reasonably good position.”

At their current rate the Pirates are due into Melbourne at 6pm Monday local, (7am UTC on Sunday).