by Oliver Dewar
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on their 28th day of racing in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.
A hazy sunset as Cessna Citation enters a high pressure zone blocking the route to the finish - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
For the Global Ocean Race (GOR) leaders, Cessna Citation, there’s high pressure agony tantalisingly close to the finish line in Charleston as the three chasing Class40s, Financial Crisis, Phesheya-Racing and Sec. Hayai thunder north at high speed parallel to the Bahamas.
Having made major gains on Saturday, the brakes went on for Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough on Sunday morning as Cessna Citation ran into a high pressure system swelling over the final 254 miles to the finish line. 'Things have slowed a lot since last night,' reported Cavanough on Saturday evening. 'We have to be careful as we still have one more zone of high pressure to cross before we get to the finish line in Charleston and fresh food and drinks… mmmmmm!'
Since speeds dropped at 01:00 GMT on Sunday, Colman and Cavanough have moved west as the chasing pack makes impressive speeds to the south in stable ESE breeze: 'The rest of the fleet will carry breeze with them most of the way, so we have to be careful not lose too many miles,' Cavanough continues. 'We’ll put in a covering gybe at some stage in the next 24 hours before reaching the high,' he adds. At 12:00 GMT on Sunday, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo with Financial Crisis were trailing Cessna Citation by 310 miles with the Italian-Slovak duo looking over their shoulders as Phesheya-Racing moves into 40 miles off their starboard quarter.
For the three first generation Akilaria Class40s, the past 24 hours have delivered some outstanding sailing as the trio push hard, logging every fraction of a mile gained or lost as the boats bunch together for the final miles to the finish line. On Phesheya-Racing in third place, it has been some of the most enjoyable sailing of the entire circumnavigation. 'We have been sailing the boat really hard over the past day and have been rewarded by a 52.8 mile gain on Financial Crisis,' confirmed Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Sunday morning. 'But to be fair, our efforts were partly fuelled by the need to keep Sec. Hayai at bay as they continue to gain incrementally on us,' she adds as the Dutch team of Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker close in to 90 miles of the South Africans at midday GMT on Sunday.
For Van Vuuren and Beusker the gains made since stopping in Fortaleza, Brazil, 11 days ago have even surprised the Dutch duo: 'What excitement!' wrote Yvonne Beusker on Saturday night. 'What initialy seemed like a done deal can now go either directon!' she explains. 'Go Phesheya and Financial Crisis and, of course, we're not slowing down either, so I guess 'it ain't over til the fat lady sings',' reasons Beusker. 'For the past week we've been flying and I wonder whether theboat has been pushed this hard beore,' says Beusker. 'Erik is helming a lot, while I trim on micro-levels on each puff,' says the J-105 skipper and Class40 debutante. 'And don'forget our twice-daily navigation meeting when we try to balance our active roles on deck with clever ones at the chart table.'
With 694 miles remaining to the finish for the Dutch team, the race is still definitely on. 'Overall, this leg we have already caught up about 159 miles on Phesheya,' Beusker calculates. 'Every day we seem to go faster - is that possible?' As Cavanough predicts, the chasing pack should keep with the easterly breeze as they reach along the east coast of Florida and the light-airs torture for Cessna Citation should end within the next 24 hours.
After seven months racing through some of the most remote sea areas on the planet, including the pristine wastes of the Southern Ocean, the current proximity to civilisation comes with a disappointing price. Nick Leggatt explains: 'At the start of the Global Ocean Race back in September last year, we were asked by the Environmental Investigation Agency to record marine mammal sightings, which we have done diligently,' says Leggatt. 'Also, we were asked to record plastic and other waste that we see floating by.'
Leggatt and Hutton-Squire have entered the ground breaking environmental initiative with enthusiasm. 'The latter has been difficult as we saw some trash on leg one, especially near the Mediterranean, but almost nothing on legs two and three,' he reports. 'While that does not mean that the quality of the Southern Ocean water is not slowly being degraded, it is an indication of how the natural flow of the West Wind Drift flushes out the waters of the high latitudes of the southern hemisphere,' says the South African skipper. 'Unfortunately where we are now the swirling gyres of the mid-latitude currents serve to concentrate any free floating objects into particular areas, and so today we were able to start our ‘Bucket List’,' he confirms. 'One x blue plastic bucket; one x red paint bucket; several small white buckets; another blue bucket...etc,' he reports. 'Mixed in with all the floating buckets we also saw a plastic chair and an assortment of polystyrene pieces!'
GOR leaderboard 12:00 GMT 29/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 254 4.9kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 310 10.5kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 350 9.2kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 440 11.2kts
Global Ocean Race website