by Oliver Dewar
The four Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) Class40s are into the Gulf Stream, following a brutal first 48 hours at sea, with the wind moving south after an upwind battle in enormous seas, squalls and lightning with teams reporting the worst conditions of the entire circumnavigation.
Brutal conditions in the Gulf Stream for Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo on Class40 Financial Crisis - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
The bold move east on Sunday by Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo with Financial Crisis is continuing to pay as the Italian-Slovak duo lead the fleet by 19 miles at 15:00 GMT on Monday. In the chasing pack, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough on Cessna Citation in second entered the Gulf Stream and tacked onto starboard at 07:00 on Monday and are currently slipstreaming Financial Crisis with some separation appearing between Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt on the South African Class40 Phesheya-Racing in third and the Dutch duo of Nico and Frans Budel on Sec. Hayai with under ten miles separating the two boats as they poll identical speed averages at just over eight knots.
On Financial Crisis, piling into the Gulf Stream while the other three Class40s remained in the corridor between the stream and the US coast was a winning tactic, but proved extremely punishing: 'I can’t deny that last night, during the worst, only a very, very small part of me was thinking about the race,' Marco Nannini admitted late on Sunday night. 'We were simply making sure we'd get through the blow with no damage, but I'm glad I stuck to my guns and headed towards the Gulf Stream.'
However, the decision was carefully considered: 'I thought that in big winds I could always ride the storm with plenty of room towards the south,' continued Nannini. 'In the full blow of the storm the seas could become horrendous as wind against current makes for very steep dangerous breaking waves,' he explains. 'The wind built to a peak of a steady 40 knots, but we had occasional gusts of nearly 50 knots,' reports the Italian-Slovak skipper. 'We wanted to preserve the boat and avoid damage so as the storm worsened we kept sailing lower or even occasionally downwind.'
Despite taking the inshore route before heading into the Gulf Stream, conditions were barely more comfortable on Phesheya-Racing: 'Last night was tough, in fact some of the worst we've seen in the entire race,' confirms Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 'We were thrown around the boat like we were in the Southern Ocean,' she adds. 'Waves crashing over the deck and the boat bouncing and slamming over the waves once more.'
Late on Sunday, the South Africans plunged into the Gulf Stream in dramatic style: 'The sheets of lightening and rain squalls have surrounded us all night keeping us on our toes,' continues Hutton-Squire. 'Fortunately the wind has gone more south,' she adds. On Sec. Hayai, this change in conditions was welcomed by the father-and-son duo of Nico and Frans Budel: 'We are now entering the Gulf Stream and it’s a different evening from yesterday!' reported Frans late on Sunday. 'It’s now become calm, about ten to 12 knots of wind,' explains the 40-year-old Dutchman as the duo started to make light repairs on board as the storm eased: 'We can now repair our bunk which is lashed together with a net to stop us falling out,' says Budel. 'The best thing is that now, finally, I’m sea sick-free and have just eaten my first meal in 30 hours!'
With the fleet currently passing Cape Hatteras and the wind forecast to drop, use of the Gulf Stream’s favourable current will be a key factor over the next 24 hours.
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 21/5/12:
1. Financial Crisis DTF 3286 7.4kts
2. Cessna Citation DTL 16 7.9kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 46 8.2kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 54 8.2kts
Global Ocean Race website