Brasil 1 finished in third place this morning after an agonising drift to the finish. Matthew Sheahan was on the dockside when they arrived
If time passed slowly for those ashore waiting for Brasil 1 to cross the line in third place, the final struggle to the finish must have been agonising for the crew.
Throughout the night and despite their steady progress towards the line, the only constant seemed to be the time to the finish. From 20 miles at 10 knots, to 10 miles at five knots, the ETA calculation stuck resolutely at two hours while the clock continued to wind itself around to dawn.
As the sun rose across Table Bay, Brasil 1 slowed to a snail’s pace as she ghosted across the glassy sea, an end to a leg that was hardly fitting given the earlier effort and blistering pace that was set for much of the 6,400 miles before. The only saving grace was that under the current scoring system the real time meant nothing, only points mattered.
In this respect, Torben Grael’s team had done themselves proud in the overall standings and now lie second by one point to ABN 1.
As the boat slipped alongside the dock in the Victoria and Alfred basin at 07:00 local (05:00 GMT), the crew looked more relieved than jubilant, sleep was in sight.
“I can’t believe it has taken seven hours to do the last 20 miles,” said navigator Adrienne Cahalan. “This was the least wind we’ve had in the entire trip.”
Torben Grael agreed.
“It was really frustrating to spend so many hours to do so few miles and drift across the line. It was an anticlimax after all the fast sailing that we did. Sailing through the Doldrums we never had less than 12 knots of wind and then we get to the finish line and have zero, zero, zero on the instruments.”
Yet the slow finish changed little and the crew were clearly happy that they had completed the leg with little damage to the boat and a great deal more experience under their belt.
“We know a lot more about our boat now than we did at the start and how to sail it,” said Grael. “We were pushing as hard as we could, but sometimes we had to hold back a little, especially when our sisterships started having troubles.”
A strategy that Cahalan says was part of their game plan from the start.
“It was obvious that Movistar and Pirates were pushing hard on the first night, but that was never part of our plan as we thought that the worst thing we could do on a leg like this was to not finish. We knew that the Farr boats are quick downwind, so we thought that the race would start again once the bad weather had passed.
“If we had the same forecast again for the next leg I don’t think we’d change that, because with these boats you just can’t slam them off waves. They’re a different kind of machine, they’re a bit like multihulls, you never try and push them more than 35 knots because they’ll just break up. I think you have to adjust your sailing a bit.”
Having said that, Brasil 1 didn’t escape completely unscathed, they too had problems with their keel when the electrical control unit on deck became waterlogged and left the keel swinging from side to side for a short time.
Nevertheless, Cahalan remained confident in the structure and engineering of the boat.
“I’ve been sailing canting keel boats for some time now and I’m confident in the technology. There are bound to be teething problems, but we went through a lot of rough weather on the way here and our team is looking to address some of the problems.”
Arriving with the boat intact, and in third place, no matter how long it finally took, will certainly stand them in good stead for the next leg.
The wait was worth it.