Global Ocean Race - War on weed escalates for Phesheya Racing

The war on weed continues for Phillippa Hutton-Squire - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Phesheya Racing
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are spread over 771 miles in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.

The four, double-handed Class40s are pushing hard with Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing in second and third place polling the best 24 hours. As the North-East Trades provide stable breeze it has become a matter of squeezing every fraction of a knot from the boats.

Celebrating his birthday on Saturday, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo have had a profitable 24 hours with Financial Crisis, shaving 24 miles from the lead of Colman and Cavanough on Cessna Citation, while the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing have kept pace with Nannini and Frattaruolo as the Dutch team of Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker in fourth place on Sec. Hayai dropped back before hooking into the more stable breeze on Saturday afternoon.

Despite holding a lead of 365 miles, hitting averages of 11-12 knots on Friday and overcoming the mystery problem with their hydrogenrator, Colman and Cavanough have been totally absorbed with mechanical issues on board Cessna Citation. First the main alternator’s mounting bolt sheared off, leaving the unit dangling from the engine and incapable of efficient charging. Lashing the alternator in place, the engine then failed to start: 'We then launched into dissembling switches, polishing contacts, replacing fuses a so on throughout the electrical loom of the engine, but to no avail,' explains Colman.

Eventually, after hours spent scrabbling around in the engine compartment, the problem was located: 'We discovered that a tiny spade connector had come off a part of the starter motor at the very bottom of the engine at the furthest point from our access hatch as possible,' Colman reports. However, with the repaired Watt & Sea hydrogenerator fulfilling all charging requirements, the lack of a working engine posed a different threat: 'With the sun beating down out of a white hot sky, our attention was galvanized by our dwindling fresh water supply as we use the engine to prime the watermaker,' says the 28-year-old skipper. 'We were down to one remaining six litre bottle when the engine fired up again, saving us from some creative plumbing to feed the watermaker from another source.'

At 15:00 GMT, the Kiwi-Australian duo were 175 miles due east of Barbados at 15:00 GMT on Saturday averaging 9.4 knots. 'The wind has now turned to the right until its blowing nearly from due east,' Colman confirms. 'This puts us in range for our big Cessna Citation spinnaker as we head for Charleston.' After 19 days at sea in Leg 4, Colman is already lining up a wish-list for Charleston: 'With 2,100 miles to go, we now have less than ten days sailing between us and refreshing cool drinks and decent coffee or just a Starbucks Frappuccino if I want complete hedonism in a single cup,' he adds. 'I can't wait!'

Meanwhile, on the South African Class40, Phesheya-Racing, the war against weed is escalating for Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire: 'Every third wave is full of Sargasso Weed,' explains Hutton-Squire. 'It has decorated the boat like a Christmas tree and the streaks across the ocean are still there like a farmer has planted his field,' adds the Western Cape farmer’s daughter. 'Any moment you would expect a combine harvester to come along and harvest it.'

Describing the weed as salad-like in appearance, the former chef has considered consumption of the free floating vegetable: 'It smells awful, but so does a lot of food before you cook it? There must be something we can do with it?' enquires Hutton-Squire, but at the moment, removing the weed is the only course of action: 'Every few hours we have to stop the boat and clear chunks of it off the rudders,' she reports. 'This isn’t good for our boat speed at all. We’re sailing through tennis courts or ping pong tables of it and have been for two days now.'

At 15:00 GMT on Saturday, Phesheya-Racing was averaging 9.8 knots having sailed in the easterly trade winds with full main and Solent overnight: 'It’s too tight to carry a kite or gennaker at the moment,' confirms Hutton-Squire. 'Every time we think we can change a gear, we get headed so we are reaching along at ten knots average,' she explains. 'On the odd occasion we are hitting speeds of 11 knots, but as there is no opportunity to surf, so our speeds are not very high at all.' For the South Africans, all the hard work has resulted in a two-mile gain on Financial Crisis in 24 hours. 'With only the four boats on the race course and us all being so spread out, it’s hard for us all to stay motivated,' Hutton-Squire admits.

Ahead of Phesheya-Racing by 164 miles on Saturday afternoon and averaging the highest speed in the fleet at 9.9 knots, Marco Nannini was celebrating his 34th birthday and messages from family, friends and supporters have been filling the inbox on board Financial Crisis: 'Thank you especially for those messages sent directly to the boat through my website. They really cheered me up,' said Nannini on Saturday afternoon. 'Many thoughts are going through my head today,' admits the Italian-Slovak skipper. 'This has been a rather special year,' he states. 'Twelve months ago, this race was something I was going to do, or rather I was hoping to do and today I feel as if a decade has passed.'

In addition to the achievement of running a round-the-world race campaign, the past 12 months have seen a dramatic shift in lifestyle and life choices: 'A big change in my personal life too; a year ago Ella and I were dating and today we're engaged,' says Nannini. 'A year ago I was working from nine to five in an office and I haven’t had to wear a suit, or get anything ironed for that matter, since I quit my job and I don’t feel like I'm missing out on much.' There are, however, a few setbacks to Nannini’s first birthday at sea: 'There's no cake to celebrate, no candles to blow, it is scorching hot outside and on the cockpit floor only a couple of squashed flying fish,' he reports. 'I thought I had stepped on something mushy whilst trimming the sails in the dark moonless night, yuk!'

GOR leaderboard 21/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 1,870 9.4kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 365 9.9kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 529 9.8kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 771 9.2kts

Global Ocean Race website