by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) - The Dutch and South African mixed-doubles teams crossed the Leg 4 finish line off Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday 2nd May. First across the line at 19:06:30 GMT (15:06:30 local) was Class40 Sec. Hayai with the Dutch duo of Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker, followed just over three hours later by the South African team of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire with Class40 Phesheya-Racing at 22:39:20 GMT (18:39:20 local).
Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker take 4th place on Leg 4 with Class40 Sec Hayai - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Although the Dutch team crossed the line before the South Africans after 6,000 miles of racing from Punta del Este in Uruguay, a 24-hour penalty applied by the GOR Race Committee for a pit stop in Brazil by Sec. Hayai results Phesheya-Racing taking third place for Leg 4.
For Van Vuuren and Beusker on Sec. Hayai, the 30 days of racing from Uruguay to the USA has been full of surprises. The Dutch Class40 left Punta del Este with Nico Budel and Erik van Vuuren as crew, but urgent business matters at home in Holland forced the team to pull in to Fortaleza on the Brazilian coast after 16 days of racing and Budel quickly returned to the Netherlands. However, determined to complete Leg 4, Van Vuuren’s girlfriend and business partner, Yvonne Beusker, quickly mobilised, flew to Brazil and joined the boat having satisfied the GOR Race Committee that her extensive sailing CV qualified for inclusion in the race.
After the crew change in Fortaleza, Sec. Hayai re-started racing with a 200-mile distance deficit on the fleet and a 24-hour time penalty, but Van Vuuren and Beusker hit the ground running: 'It was an incredible leg,' said Van Vuuren as the dockside champagne celebrations started in the GOR’s base in the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. 'First racing with Nico early in the leg and then Yvonne arrives and it’s unbelievably nice to sail with your girlfriend and I’m so incredibly proud of her,' he adds.
Although Van Vuuren and Beusker have immense inshore and offshore racing experience, the GOR’s Leg 4 was the first time they had raced on a Class40: 'The boat seems to have so many gear change buttons that you can just keep turning it up further and further,' commented an extremely happy Yvonne Beusker as she chatted with fellow GOR skippers on the arrival pontoons. 'We used all our experience on other boats to experiment with finding new buttons and it was just amazing how far you can push these boats to get them going fast,' she explains.
Although the longest race the duo had sailed together prior to the GOR was the Rolex Fastnet Race last year, the 6,000 miles and 30 days from Punta del Este to Charleston flew by: 'It took four weeks, but it went so fast that it feels like just two weeks, really,' says Van Vuuren and the Dutch team quickly slipped into a successful routine on board. 'We had quite a good way of working,' Beusker believes. 'A few times a day we would meet at the chart table and discuss weather and strategy and decide if we would both sail together or split the watches and it just worked really well,' explains Erik van Vuuren. 'It was a perfect opportunity to sail a Class40 together and it worked so well that hopefully you’ll see us back again soon!' he adds.
For the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire, their competitive edge was severely compromised when their largest spinnaker was destroyed: 'Blowing our A2 was the hardest moment of the race,' confirmed Hutton-Squire shortly after Phesheya-Racing docked in the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. 'Then we had to try and make the boat go fast and trying to catch the Dutchies with this scale of handicap was really hard and keeping morale high on the boat was very difficult at times,' she admits, recalling how they watched Sec. Hayai closing in on them from the south.
Leggatt and Hutton-Squire worked tirelessly to find an effective solution to their performance loss: 'We even poled-out our smaller A4 spinnaker, but we just couldn’t find the extra speed,' continues Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 'We kept trying to think of tricks like trying to find a little bit of favourable current,' adds Nick Leggatt, 'but they were sitting behind us, so all they had to do was shadow us and then pounce.' Eventually, with 100 miles to the finish line, Sec. Hayai overtook Phesheya-Racing 14 days after the Dutch re-started racing from Brazil and in the downwind conditions for the final miles of the leg, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire were unable to match the speeds of the Dutch Class40.
Nonetheless, the Dutch team’s 24-hour penalty secured Phesheya-Racing third place in Leg 4 and despite the technical set-back, the duo experienced some of the best sailing so far in the 28,000 miles they have covered in the GOR: 'The water was so flat and it was 95 per cent downwind since we left Punta,' says Hutton-Squire. 'It was a very pleasant leg,' agrees Leggatt. 'From the top corner of Brazil we had some pretty awesome sailing,' he adds.
The four GOR teams now have 16 days to recover and prepare for the final leg of the circumnavigation from Charleston to Les Sables d’Olonne starting on Saturday 19 May.
GOR Leg 4 Ranking:
1. Cessna Citation: 28d 11h 45m
2. Financial Crisis: 29d 10h 22m 50s
3. Phesheya-Racing: 30d 4h 39m 20s
4. Sec. Hayai: 31d 1h 6m 30s (corrected from 30d 1h 6m 30s)
Global Ocean Race website