by Oliver Dewar
In the Global Ocean Race, the Kiwi-Australian duo of Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough took first place in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to South Carolina with Akilaria RC2 Class40 Cessna Citation, crossing the finish line off Charleston at 05:45:00 GMT (01:54:00 local) on Tuesday morning. Colman and Cavanough took 28 days 11 hours and 45 minutes to complete the 5,700 miles from Uruguay to Charleston.
Hat Trick for Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough with Cessna Citation in GOR 2011-12 Leg 4
Crossing the finish line at number 13 buoy to seaward of Charleston’s twin, offshore breakwaters, 28-year-old Colman and 30-year-old Cavanough lit orange flares in celebration as their Class40 ghosted north in minimal breeze on a long, oily swell beneath a half-moon and cloudless sky with the loom of Charleston’s city lights as a backdrop.
Engaging their engine, the victorious duo motored down the clearly-marked channel towards Charleston Harbour, passing between Morris Island and Sullivans Island, then through the 2km-wide gap with Fort Sumter to port and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and into the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
Colman and Cavanough led the GOR fleet from the start on 2 April in Punta del Este, building a lead of 230 miles by the time Cessna Citation reached the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate at the easternmost point of Brazil after 21 days of racing and increasing further to almost 400 miles as the duo closed in on the Caribbean.
For Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman, this isolation at the head of the fleet was satisfying, but the lack of close combat left an empty feeling: 'We actually felt a little bit envious of the others as we made a quick break at the beginning and then the wind favoured us, so we very quickly extended out,' he explains. 'Then it was just us and the flying fish, whereas the other guys were bouncing off each other and having a good time,' says Colman. 'I’ll never get sick of winning, but it was a fairly relaxed way of winning the leg.'
Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough win GOR Leg 4 with Cessna Citation
With their impressive lead reduced as Cessna Citation sailed into a completely different weather system than the chasing pack of three Class40s, Colman and Cavanough regained ground again as they left the Bahamas to port before falling into light airs with just 130 miles to the finish. 'Unfortunately, by being so far into the lead there was always the risk of moving into a high pressure area and a compression from behind,' Colman confirms.
'So there was nothing we could really do.' The only option was to take a westerly heading away from the finish and watch their rich stock of leadership miles tumble. 'We were just sailing VMG downwind and the others were power reaching,' he adds.
As Cessna Citation slipped across the Charleston finish line, their closest competitor, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo with Financial Crisis, was 161 miles to the south and while the loss of so many miles in the last few days at sea and missing the chance of a fast finish might be mildly disappointing, the two sailors delivered an immaculate leg.
This is doubly impressive as Colman and Cavanough have never raced together before – Scott Cavanough explains the potential setbacks this could have presented: 'You can certainly tell sometimes that we’re both ex-solo sailors and ex-Mini sailors as we often wanted to do things ourselves in our own way,' he says. 'The other guy would come out on deck half asleep and try and help out and would be told to go back to bed and leave everything alone! However, we got along well and made the boat go.'
Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough win Global Ocean Race 2011-12 Leg 4 with Cessna Citation
On two subjects, both sailors agree unequivocally – the finest moment of the leg, which occurred on the last day at sea: 'We were surrounded by dolphins and we sat on the bobstay while they were swimming along by the bow,' says Colman, 'We reached out and touched them, which was something very, very special.'
And, of course, the lowest point of the leg: 'Pulling weed off the rudders and the hydrogenerator gets old really quick,' states Cavanough, recalling the massive fields of Sargasso weed the fleet encountered. 'Repeated mechanical failures was also a real stress,' adds Colman, 'but overcoming them was good for our team work. We didn’t break anything and we’re fatigued, but could leave tomorrow.'
As the Kiwi-Australian duo recover from Leg 4 at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Nannini and Frattaruolo were 116 miles from the finish line at 12:00 GMT averaging just over nine knots.
GOR leaderboard at 12:00 GMT 1/5/12:
1. Cessna Citation 28d 11h 45m
2. Financial Crisis DTF 116 9.1kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTF 195 7.9kts
4. Sec. Hayai 215 9.2kts
Global Ocean Race website