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Global Ocean Race - Financial Crisis close in on Argentine coast

by Oliver Dewar on 3 Mar 2012
GOR Race Viewer at 15:00 GMT 2/3/12 - Global Ocean Race 2011-12 .
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet continue racing from Wellington to the third leg finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon, with Financial Crisis, are closing in on the Argentine coast with headwinds likely for the final miles to the finish line while Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire have continued upwind conditions as they work north on Phesheya-Racing.

Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon are continuing to reach in light north-westerlies just 20 miles off the white-sand beaches of Argentina between Necochea and Mar del Plata as the temperature continues to climb on Financial Crisis: 'It’s amazing to think that just a few days ago we were being whipped by hail and snow,' says Hugo Ramon. 'I’ve now swapped my boots for deck shoes and the centrepiece of my wardrobe, my dry suit, has finally been exchanged for shorts so that my legs, which are a brilliant white and weak from lack of use, are shining fiercely in the bright sun.'

With 266 miles remaining to the Leg 3 finish line at 15:00 GMT on Friday, the proximity of Punta del Este has provoked contemplation on board Financial Crisis: 'Reaching the finish line and re-entering civilisation is beginning to lose its appeal,' admits the 26 year-old Spaniard. 'We know we will take second place and the voyage ends with the finish line, but it’s so much more than that,' he continues. However, with light headwinds forecast as the Italian-Spanish duo approach the 120-mile wide mouth of the Rio de la Plata, the Punta del Este ETA is pushed back to Sunday morning local.

Nonetheless, sitting braced against the carbon mast and looking back over the stern, Ramon drifted into a trance-like state. 'I became almost hypnotised by watching the wake which is, sadly, no longer populated by albatrosses,' says Ramon. 'But watching the ocean unroll behind the boat brought home where I’ve been and makes me even more determined to return,' he explains. 'I now begin to understand Bernard Moitessier’s actions,' says Ramon of the French, single-handed, 1969 Golden Globe Race competitor. 'After rounding Cape Horn in the first ever round-the-world race, instead of heading up through the Atlantic to Europe, he carried on across to the Indian Ocean for a second circumnavigation through the Southern Ocean,' recalls the Spaniard. 'I now know that as soon as I reach land, the only thing for me to do is start work immediately on putting a racing project together so I can get back to the South as soon as possible.'

While Hugo Ramon struggles with finish line denial, the remaining 777 miles for the South African team of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing are looking increasingly tough. 'The beating will continue until morale improves,' says Leggatt, quoting the military phrase on the morale-boosting value of punishment. 'The latest weather forecast indicates that we can expect to beat against the wind and waves all the way to the finish line,' he says of the next five days at sea. 'So morale is only likely to improve once we are safely tied to the dock in Punta del Este.'

Sailing 270 miles off Patagonia’s San Jorge Gulf on Friday afternoon, Nick Leggatt reported conditions 47S: 'At the moment we’re thrashing our way into a real dog of a sea,' Leggatt reports. 'It’s Ruff!...Ruff!...Ruff! and the wind and waves have got progressively worse with time.' The beating began on Wednesday as Phesheya-Racing cleared the Falkland Islands on port tack before switching onto starboard early on Thursday morning and heading towards the South American coast.

Despite trailing Nannini and Ramon by 511 miles, the South Africans have company as they climb through the South Atlantic. 'Throughout last night, the entire horizon was ringed with a bright glow of light,' Leggatt reported on Friday morning. 'These were the lights of a vast fleet of Chinese fishing boats employing deck lights so bright that we could see them clearly from over 50 miles away!' he explains.

Phesheya-Racing closed on the fishing boats at sun rise. 'They were all anchored in groups of a dozen, or so, wherever the chart indicated an undersea canyon at least 200 metres deep,' notes Leggatt. 'What are these boats after?' he asks. 'Patagonian toothfish? Tuna? Why do they need such bright lights? Perhaps they are attracting squid? Do they only fish at night and remain at anchor during the day? Why do they anchor in such deep water? Answers on a postcard please...'

While the fishing mystery deepened at dawn, daylight also revealed that the bottom mainsail batten had broken: 'Quite how it happened while sailing steadily upwind is a bit of a mystery,' says Leggatt. The duo hove-to to replace the batten from a selection of spare battens strapped to the guardrails and stanchions. 'Normally we would try to do this while still sailing, but the sea state made it quite difficult and dangerous, so we opted to slow down instead.'

GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 02/03/12:
1. Cessna Citation Finished 20:37:30 GMT 29/2/12
2. Financial Crisis DTF 266 7.5kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 511 7.4kts Global Ocean Race website

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