by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on the ninth day of racing of leg two from Cape Town to Wellington.
Strange cloud formations at 43 degrees South - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
At 07:00 GMT on Thursday, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon with Financial Crisis were the fourth double-handed, Class40 to pass the eastern extremity of the western Indian Ocean’s leg two ice limit at 42S, followed two hours later by the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in fifth on Phesheya-Racing. While Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing remained north, separated by 16 miles and reaching east with slightly under ten-knot averages, the leading trio, 160 miles to the south-east, were into their first 24 hours of free-range racing following release from the ice limit’s restrictions.
Overnight, distances remained relatively stable throughout the fleet, but on Thursday, Conrad Colman and Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, on Cessna Citation began to close down on the leaders, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France, with Ross and Campbell Field in hot pursuit on BSL in third place. By 15:00 GMT, Colman and Goodchild had squeezed back into the lead averaging the highest speed in the fleet at over 11 knots.
While the leadership battle raged, on Financial Crisis, Hugo Ramon was looking at the weather files and the forecast front due to roll over the fleet: 'We’re a bit like an animal being led to the slaughterhouse,' he explains dramatically. 'Although, we do have a choice of when we let the front give us a whipping.' Since leaving the ice limit astern, Financial Crisis has maintained a heading of 96 degrees. 'If we head east at about 90 degrees, we’ll spend more time with the wind that we have at the moment and the front will arrive over us in about 36 hours,' he calculated late on Wednesday. 'The lead group; Cessna, Campagne de France and BSL, being to the south will probably get it a little earlier.' The option of getting the front over and done with has been sidelined: 'It’s not like we’re at the dentist where the ‘get-the-tooth-pulled-out-quickly-and-reduce-the- suffering-and-anxiety’ approach is wise,' Ramon debates. 'The more time we spend going east on our current heading at ten knots, the more miles we make towards Wellington, rather than bearing away and making eight knots and heading south-east in an unfavourable direction.' The theory is sound. 'In reality, we’ll just have to see what happens when the front arrives,' he adds. At 15:00 GMT on Thursday, Nannini and Ramon had extended their lead over Phesheya-Racing by 12 miles in 24 hours, leading their Akilaria Class40 sistership by 22 miles.
Meanwhile, on Cessna Citation, Conrad Colman was confused by the clear skies, flat sea and ten knots of breeze: 'Ah, the Southern Ocean of legend,' he comments. 'We had psyched ourselves up for a big blow, a heavy spinnaker run after we turned the corner of the ice gate to dive into the deep south were waves are as big as houses and dragons roam the uncharted waters,' says the 27 year-old New Zealander. 'However, so far Mother Nature has been indifferent to our thrill-seeking and has instead turned out a pearler of a day.' Colman’s 22 year-old co-skipper is equally deflated by the absence of drama at the ice limit: 'It was a bit of an anti-climax as we turned around this theoretical point in the sea, no marks, no race committee, no rocks, no land, no competitors but, still, a mark of the race course,' says Goodchild. There is, though, an upside: 'The albatrosses are impressing me more now,' he reports. 'I’ve got over my cynical first impressions, a big seagull, and now am starting to admire their size and elegance.'
As usual, the calm conditions had been an opportunity for maintenance and Colman went aloft to repair a chafed, fractional spinnaker halyard: 'At the masthead I searched ahead and behind for our tormenting companions but the sea was ours,' he reports. 'Underlying the sunny day is still the silent competitive drive to improve our position every three hours.' When the three-hourly, 15:00 GMT Thursday positions arrived in the inbox on Cessna Citation, their leadership was confirmed as they kept Campagne de France 15 miles off their port beam, but under a mile astern in terms of Distance to Finish. 'The weather might not be extreme, but the racing is great and we’re not asking for our money back!' For Goodchild, however, the high-quality of the racing is balanced by a tormenting vegetarian diet: 'The latest food scandal on board is the disappointing discovery that the deceivingly-named Pasta in Bella Italia Cheese Sauce should be called Carbonara-with-no-bacon,' he reports. 'But today is a good day and I have some biltong in my food bag, which is always a bonus! We’re also reaching and going quickly, so a happy day!'
Trailing Cessna Citation and Campagne de France by just 14 miles with BSL, Ross Field is enjoying the food and the conditions: 'The sea state is smooth like the Hauraki Gulf on a beautiful day,' he explains. 'There’s around 12 knots of wind, but unfortunately there is mist and it's cold, but the sun manages to poke its head through the mist now and again.' With relatively stable conditions, the focus is maintaining speed: 'We’re straight lining with changes in sail combinations,' reports Ross. 'Trimming and steering to try and get the last 10th of a knot out of the old girl.' However, the holiday will soon be over: 'The forecast is for increasing winds and with that will be big seas,' he predicts. 'I’m looking forward to the wild rides, but not looking forward to having a cold water blast every minute,' he adds. Consequently, banking sleep is a priority on BSL. 'I’m managing to catch up on some much-needed sleep,' Ross confirms. 'Campbell is snoring his head off at the moment, mouth wide open - not a pretty sight!'
GOR leg two leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 08/12/2011:
1. Cessna Citation: DTF 5,141 11.1kts
2. Campagne de France: DTL 0.8 10.3kts
3. BSL: DTL 14.9 10.8kts
4. Financial Crisis: DTL 187 9.8kts
5. Phesheya-Racing: DTL 209 8.9kts
Global Ocean Race website