by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) duo Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, onboard Class40 Campagne de France, crossed the leg two finish line in Wellington, New Zealand, in third place at 09:49 on Monday local time (20:40 GMT 01/01/12) after 33 days 10 hours 40 minutes and 15 seconds of racing through the Indian Ocean from Cape Town.
Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron complete the Leg 2 podium in Wellington with Class40 Campagne de France - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Mabire and Merron’s hard-won podium place keeps them in second place on points behind Ross and Campbell Field on BSL and two points ahead of leg two winner, Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild with Cessna Citation.
Shortly after sunrise on Monday local, Campagne de France beat along the northern coast of Cook Strait towards Wellington Harbour close inshore to the exposed rocks of West Ledge before bearing away near the eastern entrance to the harbour at Pencarrow Head and hoisting a masthead asymmetric for the final miles to the finish line in Worser Bay. While sailing towards the GOR’s base in Queen’s Wharf having crossed the line, Mabire and Merron discussed the 7,000-mile voyage from Cape Town. 'It’s not the best result,' admits Halvard Mabire. 'But, luckily, we have three legs remaining,' he adds. 'It has been a very, very long leg,' says Mabire to complete agreement from Miranda Merron.
For the Franco-British duo, the turning point in leg two arrived at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate at 069E, running north-south, bisecting the Indian Ocean. Campagne de France crossed the scoring gate in second place, but further north than Cessna Citation and BSL. As Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild on Cessna Citation and Ross and Campbell Field on BSL hooked into a front, delivering a phenomenal 24 hours of speed averages between 14-15 knots and plunged south to 48S beyond the Kerguelen Island southern limit, Mabire and Merron missed the system further north. 'When we were behind the front we were in a different weather pattern altogether,' confirms Mabire. 'I think Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing had the worst conditions for the entire leg as they were always behind these systems,' he adds.
Both Mabire and Merron agree that the conditions in the Indian Ocean were brutal: 'We never saw long swells and it was always a short, nasty sea – a real shaker,' recalls Mabire. 'Because of the sea state it was just far too dangerous for us to go south, purely on a safety basis,' adds Merron. Mabire concurs: 'The possibility of capsizing was becoming serious,' says the French skipper. 'We also just don’t have the budget available to cope with any major breakages and just before we made the decision to keep north, it became impossible to race effectively.' While the GOR’s mandatory 180 degree inversion test recognises the chance of a capsize, the Franco-British duo’s decision to stay further north led them into high-pressure systems, notably in mid-Tasman Sea and then off the west coast of South Island. 'When you have a horrible sea state and a lot of wind, that is bad enough, but when you have no wind and the horrible sea state, it’s even worse.' The mental torture and physical strain on the boat was extreme in the light airs. 'I think we had about 100 hours stuck in those conditions.'
One possible benefit of the light airs was a good view of the New Zealand coast as Mabire and Merron worked north along South Island’s western shore: 'South Island looks so nice I think we’re going to have to come back,' confirms Mabire. 'We’re thinking seriously about a cruising boat and we’ve talked a lot about it,' he says. 'In Cook Strait, for example there’s either not enough wind, or too much,' Mabire explains. 'When there’s not enough wind you can’t use the engine when you’re racing, and when the wind is on the nose, you can’t go in a comfortable direction!'
With three boats in Queen’s Wharf, two GOR Class40s remain racing. In the 00:00 GMT position poll on Sunday/Monday, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon in fourth are closing in on the finish line with Financial Crisis just 18 miles from Wellington, and the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are 493 miles from the finish with Phesheya-Racing in fifth place, sailing 170 miles off the coast of South Island.
GOR leadeboard at 00:00 GMT 1-2 January:
1. Cessna Citation 30d 22h 20m 40s
2. BSL 32d 11h 38m 40s
3. Campagne de France 33d 10h 40m 15s
4. Financial Crisis DTF 18 4.5kts
5. Phesheya-Racing DTF 493 10.4kts
GOR cumulative leg one and leg two points:
1. BSL: 64 (four points at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate + 25 points for second place in leg two)
2. Campagne de France: 56 points (five points at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate + 20 points for third place in leg two)
3. Cessna Citation: 54 (six points at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate + 30 points for leg two win)
4. Financial Crisis: 27 (three points at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate)
5. Phesheya-Racing: 14 (two points at the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate)
6. Sec. Hayai: six (RTD from leg two)
Global Ocean Race website