by Oliver Dewar
After thirteen days at sea and a very demanding 2,000 miles of racing in the Global Ocean Race Leg 4, the leading Class40 Cessna Citation, has crossed the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate off the coast of Brazil netting the maximum six points and coming close to crossing the boat’s outbound track made on GOR Leg 1 from Palma, Mallorca, to Cape Town seven months ago.
Very grey conditions off the coast of Brazil.
Although Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough took Cessna Citation across the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate shortly before midnight on Saturday and freed-off around Ponta do Calcanhar hitting ten-knot averages, it hasn’t been so comfortable for the trio of Class40s further south.
The chasing pack were separated by 150 miles at 15:00 GMT on Sunday, led by Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo with Financial Crisis but as speed averages hovered around eight knots in approximately 14 knots of easterly breeze throughout Saturday, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire fell into a private weather system on Phesheya-Racing with the South Africans fighting to keep the boat moving as miles were lost to Financial Crisis and the Dutch duo of Nico Budel and Erik van Vuuren on Sec. Hayai.
While Colman and Cavanough added 29 miles to their lead in the past 24 hours and led the fleet by 241 miles on Sunday afternoon, the South Africans have dropped 25 miles to the Italian-Slovak team on Financial Crisis with Budel and Van Vuuren winning 26 miles from Phesheya-Racing as Leggatt and Hutton-Squire recover from their seven-hour ordeal in unreadable conditions.
Meanwhile, at the head of the fleet, for 28-year-old Conrad Colman, triumph at the scoring gate was slightly marred: 'Last night we rushed through the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate at ten-12 knots under our Code 3 gennaker before turning around the top of Brazil and again hoisting the big spinnaker,' he reported on Sunday afternoon.
Nico Budel checks the wiring in the aft compartment on Sec Hayai - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
'It would be nice to be able to bask in the afterglow of getting more points on the board but, again, the day has dawned with a hot fury, eliminating all chances of basking,' says Colman. 'Instead of the touch of King Midas where everything turns to gold, we currently have the touch of King Neptune where every touch leaves a wet puddle behind!'
As Cessna Citation heads north-west, parallel to the coast of Brazil, Colman and Cavanough left a familiar landmark 170 miles to starboard: 'We’ve now reached the latitude of the islands of Fernando de Noronha which were a mark on the southward passage through the Atlantic in Leg 1 in September,' Colman explains of the opening leg of the GOR, co-skippered with Spanish sailor, Hugo Ramon.
'As we were further east that time, we haven’t crossed our outward path, but as I have now passed Fernando to the west in opposite directions, I shall declare that I am a circumnavigator!' he states. 'Magellan was the first, but I think that I'm the most freshly minted around the world sailor there is, at least until the rest of the fleet does likewise.'
While Colman and Cavanough flew across the Scoring Gate, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire were 300 miles south of Cessna Citation trying very hard to keep Phesheya-Racing on the move. Having averaged speeds of between eight and ten knots and made gains on Nannini and Frattaruolo, the fun wasn’t to last for long:
'It was an absolute blast sailing in the right direction, but the rain soon came and the wind died out,' explained Phillippa Hutton-Squire early on Sunday morning. 'It was grey, miserable and drizzling just like it does in the Southern Ocean and we struggled to make way at all.'
The fickle breeze and frustration intensified: 'We were beating north, then we were reaching north and then running then beating.... the wind was swinging in circles around us,' she continues.
The South African duo eventually un-packed the downwind Code 0 that had been stowed below earlier in the week as the easterly wind arrived. 'We hoisted it and dropped the Solent,' says Hutton-Squire. 'Nick and I stood back in the cockpit and we were doing eight knots. We both smiled! There was only eight knots of wind and where it had come from was a mystery and we were moving at last! Four hours of trying to get the boat to go!'
However, the pain wasn’t over as an enormous black cloud blocked the way north. 'The bulk of the cloud passed in front of us, but it was soon very shifty and raining again,' continues Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 'We were then beating WNW in three or four knots of wind,' she adds as the wind continued to shift randomly. 'This went on for hours, driving Nick and I round the bend,' admits the South African skipper.
'We were either beating or reaching. By the time you had trimmed the main, the Solent was correct and the main incorrect, so we came up with a new sailing term 'breaching',' she explains. 'Breaching means that one sail is reaching and the other beating and both are correct!'
Nick Leggatt trimming at sunset - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
With 3,280 miles of Leg 4 remaining to Charleston, South Carolina, and coming so close to his circumnavigation’s outbound track, Conrad Colman reflected on the remainder of the race finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, in early June. 'In 2007 when I did my first transatlantic crossing, I was intimidated by the scope of the task,' he admits.
'In 2009 when I did the Mini Transat race, I spent a whole year with nothing on my mind beyond learning the intricacies of the weather patterns and planning for 30 days spent at sea,' adds the Kiwi skipper. 'Now all that remains of our circumnavigation after the end of this leg is ‘just’ a transat! A 3,000-mile ocean passage has been reduced to a hill start in a manual car. At first an all-encompassing challenge, and now a small part of a greater challenge.'
GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 15/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 3280 8.8kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 241 9.4kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 335 8.2kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 391 9.2kts
Global Ocean Race website