by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet is approaching the end of their first week at sea in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.
A grey, upwind Easter in the South Atlantic - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
The double-handed teams are racing upwind along the continental shelf of Brazil with the New Zealand-Australian team continuing to extend their lead on Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation to 56 miles, while the three first generation Akilarias – Financial Crisis, Phesheya-Racing and Sec. Hayai – were spread over 37 miles at 15:00 GMT on Sunday with the Italian-Slovak duo of Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo squeezing fractionally higher speeds from Financial Crisis but unable to shake-off the South African and Dutch Class40s.
On Sunday afternoon GMT, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough with Cessna Citation continued to poll the best averages for almost 24 hours with Cape Frio 90 miles of the port beam and with Nannini and Frattaruolo 56 miles astern and both boats averaging just over seven knots. On board Financial Crisis in second place, there has been no break since the beginning of the leg in Punta del Este: 'Half the world is on holiday for a long Easter weekend, but for us it's been more wind and waves as we sail north-east hoping to soon reach the trade winds,' reported Marco Nannini on Sunday afternoon. 'Ahead of us the bottom corner of Brazil with Rio de Janeiro and a tangle of variable light winds to deal with.'
Following the passage of a front, the spell of downwind sailing was short-lived and the teams are now back on the most uncomfortable point of sail: 'In the space of half a day we went from sailing downwind to beating upwind again, progress has been very slow since, especially as we are pushing against the unfavourable Brazil Current which runs from north to south decreasing our speed by nearly a knot,' Nannini confirms. 'We have another two-to-three days of light variable winds ahead which can bring mixed fortunes to each boat,' he predicts. 'Our eyes are firmly set on the easterly trade winds a few days sailing ahead of us,' says Nannini of the band of breeze waiting at around 15S, 700 miles to the north. 'Once we manage to feel the gentle flow of their predictable air, we should start making fast progress towards the Equator and the Doldrums; another challenging part of the race.'
While Nannini and Frattaruolo have resisted attacks from the South African team on Phesheya-Racing, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire have been keeping a sharp eye on the Dutch duo of Nico Budel and Erik van Vuuren: 'I spotted Sec. Hayai on the horizon,' reports Hutton-Squire as the Dutchmen passed three miles astern on Saturday evening before the wind moved north. 'They passed behind us far in the distance,' she explains. 'The wind went forward of the beam and we changed to the Solent and now the wind is right on the nose again and we’re now struggling to make way under the full moon as the wind is so light.' At 15:00 GMT on Sunday, Phesheya-Racing trailed Financial Crisis by 20 miles with a lead of eight miles over Sec. Hayai.
Following the brief, relative luxury of sailing downwind, the constant grind of racing uphill is punishing: 'As we beat upwind again it amazes me how your body goes into defensive actions again,' admits Nick Leggatt. 'We’re holding onto everything and things are a bit slower on board. As soon as you ease the sheets and sail off the wind on a flat boat you have so much more energy and things are easy.'
The short range forecast for the double-handed Class40s is looking increasingly tricky with a large, empty, windless hole in the GRIB files blocking the route and while there’s a chance Cessna Citation may pass the area before the breeze vacuum arrives, the remaining three Class40s will be pushing as hard as they can to beat the light patch.
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 8/4/12
1. Cessna Citation DTF 4562 7.2kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 56 7kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 83 6.4kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 93 5.9kts
Global Ocean Race website