by Oliver Dewar
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on their 25th day at sea in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.
GOR Race Viewer 15:00 GMT 25/4/12 - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
For the two leading double-handed Class40s a narrow highway 100 miles wide is developing as the fleet curves north-west around the Caribbean islands en route to Charleston. With Cessna Citation in first place and Financial Crisis in second slowing throughout Wednesday, there’s an opportunity for third placed Phesheya-Racing and Sec. Hayai in fourth to close the gap as they hold the breeze further south.
At 15:00 GMT on Wednesday, the Kiwi-Australian duo on Cessna Citation were 116 mile due north of Puerto Rico with speeds dwindling as Nannini and Frattaruolo grabbed another 30 miles from their lead in 24 hours with Financial Crisis. However, the Italian-Slovak duo are looking over their shoulders as the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing take 14 miles from their lead over the past day and the Dutch on Sec. Hayai – holding the breeze longest on Wednesday afternoon – wipe almost 30 miles from the lead held by Phesheya-Racing.
On board Cessna Citation, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough have their eyes glued to the GPS: 'Today we get to open up the treats bag and share a small packet of Pringles crisps between Conrad and myself as we pass through the less-than-1,000-miles-to-the-finish mark,' explained Cavanough on Wednesday morning. 'It doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to lift our game and spirits for the final few days on this long leg,' explains the 30-year-old Australian. 'Why Pringles? The hard packet prevents them from getting damaged when thrown around the boat during stacking,' says Cavanough.
It seems the crisps have provided a major incentive since Cessna Citation rounded the eastern edge of Brazil 11 days ago and turned north-west: 'Since Conrad put the waypoint of Charleston into the GPS at Recife some 3,000 miles back, we’ve been waiting for the mythical number on the screen of 999.9,' he continues. 'So when it starts counting down later today, the Pringles get opened!' At 15:00 GMT on Wednesday, self-control was required as 80 miles still remained before the feeding frenzy could commence.
While the crisp fixation continues to develop on Cessna Citation, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo were looking at GRIB files: 'Ahead of us is a patch of really light airs which won’t fill for another two days,' Nannini reported at noon GMT on Wednesday. 'This is of course all to Phesheya's advantage the longer we suffer in this air bubble,' he adds, calculating that the South Africans should have another 12 hours of good breeze before the wind drops as speeds on Financial Crisis remained at just over eight knots by mid-afternoon.
With 1,350 miles remaining to Charleston, the Italian-Slovak duo on Financial Crisis realise that it’s now a fight all the way to the finish line. 'I keep looking at the complex weather forecast ahead and I know I won’t find peace until we're in Charleston,' confirms Nannini. 'Getting stuck in a wind hole is my biggest worry,' he admits. 'We’ve already dropped miles to Phesheya and our lead doesn’t seem that great any more. We're all here to play till the end and I'm sure they'll push hard seeing us slowing down.'
South of Financial Crisis, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing are sailing close to the Caribbean islands, just 100 miles east of Dominica on Wednesday afternoon, with their speed dropping gradually throughout the day as the the Dutch duo of Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker, 211 miles south of Phesheya-Racing on Sec. Hayai, average over ten knots.
As the Dutch make gains, the South African Class40’s battle with weed still raged: 'In the pre-dawn light the motion of the boat felt very sluggish regardless of how much attention we paid to the trim,' reported Leggatt early on Wednesday. 'Sunrise revealed the reason to be that we were apparently sailing in a thick vegetable soup!' he explains. 'The Sargasso weed has now become so dense that at times it reminded me of trying to find leads through pack ice in the Antarctic!' The similarity to the crust of floating ice is remarkable: 'Some of the larger clumps of weed even seemed to have the same gently undulating motion of large ice floes.'
Leggatt has made 28 Atlantic crossings and confirms that the current amount of weed is out of the ordinary: 'It certainly lends credibility to the stories of the old seamen who claimed to find fully rigged sailing ships adrift in the Sargasso Sea with all the crew dead from starvation having been unable to free the vessel from the clutches of the weed!' The tedious and repetitive weed-clearance is now a continuous operation: 'Once again we were destined to spend the day repeatedly slowing the boat down, lifting the hydrogenerator clear of the water and leaning over the transom with the boathook trying to free the rudders before the autopilot gave up the struggle against the forces of nature!' says Leggatt.
GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 25/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 1080 7.1kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 236 8.2kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 393 8.6kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 604 10.7kts
Global Ocean Race website