by Oliver Dewar
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on their 24th day at sea in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.
Scott Cavanough completes a thorough mast check - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
The chasing trio of Class40s continue to close down on the lead boat with two distinct weather systems controlling the leaderboard as the fleet races east of the Caribbean’s Windward and Leeward Islands. For the southern group, the NE Trade Winds held firm until late on Tuesday, delivering solid ten to 11 knot speed averages, while at the head of the fleet, Cessna Citation has spent 48 hours in light easterlies and is continuing to head WNW watching their formidable distance deficit tumble.
In the past 24 hours, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough on Cessna Citation have kept heading west as the pursuing pack thunder north making a more direct course to the Leg 4 finish in Charleston, South Carolina. Since Monday afternoon, Colman and Cavanough have advanced 172 miles towards the finish line, while in second place, 266 miles south-east of Cessna Citation at 15:00 GMT on Tuesday, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo on Financial Crisis have covered 226 miles towards Charleston.
On Tuesday afternoon, Financial Crisis was averaging 9.6 knots knots and the Italian-Slovak duo are edging into the same weather pattern as Colman and Cavanough, but until late on Monday night, Nannini and Frattaruolo were making some of the best speeds in the fleet. Sergio Frattaruolo describes the conditions: 'For some time now we’ve had 20-25 knots of constant trade winds that allow us to make some of the top averages,' says the sailor from Bologna. 'During the night we glide constantly between 13 to 17 knots under autopilot and it would be very hard to describe the sensation to anyone who hasn’t tried it already,' Frattaruolo continues.
'We’re lifted up by the front of a wave and the boat tilts forward and there’s a brief moment of uncertainty before the bow comes up and we’re surfing and you hear the rushing and boiling of the water as the boat cuts through the water,' Frattaruolo explains. 'We glide down on our flying carpet and the boat is supported on its own artificial wave that travels faster than the natural waves,' adds the Italian. 'Sometimes we catch up with the waves in front of us, smashing into them with an explosion of water that cover the entire boat.'
Meanwhile, life on Cessna Citation is somewhat less exciting: 'It’s very frustrating that we are slowly losing our lead,' admitted Scott Cavanough on Tuesday afternoon. 'One of the bad parts of having such a big lead is that it puts the leader in such a completely different weather system,' He explains. 'Hopefully we have stemmed the loss of miles, but we’ll have to wait and see.' At 15:00 GMT, Cessna Citation had picked up speed to an average of 9.2 knots, sailing just 140 miles due north of Antigua. 'Having spent four winter seasons working on the J-Class Ranger in Antigua, it was a pity not being able to stop and enjoy one of the 365 beaches on the island,' reminisces Cavanough. 'So a big hello to all my friends watching the race from the Caribbean!'
Averaging just under ten knots on Tuesday afternoon, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire were celebrating a personal best on Phesheya-Racing: 'The past 24 hours have been great as progress has been good with our fastest day’s run this leg at 256 miles,' reported Hutton-Squire early on Tuesday. 'We’ve now passed the 2,000 miles-to-go-to the finish mark. What a sense of relief we really are on the downhill stretch to the finish of Leg 4,' she says and the South Africans are showing signs of land-envy: 'The cravings for fresh food have started with salads and fresh fruit on the menu this time!' she admits as conditions deteriorate on Phesheya-Racing: 'The Sargasso weed is still floating on the surface and decorating the boat; the waves are continually pouring over the deck as we surf down the waves and the deck is covered in thick layers of salt.' Cooked by the tropical sun, this combination is deeply unpleasant: 'The heat of the day dries the deck out and leaves behind a thick layer of salt, Sargasso weed and dead flying fish. It’s a mess and very smelly!' Hutton-Squire confirms.
In fourth place on Sec. Hayai, 238 miles south of Phesheya-Racing and making the best average in the fleet at 10.1 knots, the Dutch newcomers to Class40, Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker, have used the stable conditions to check-over their generation one Akilaria. 'We thoroughly checked everything on board for wear and tear including the engine to make sure it won’t let us down in the near future when we arrrive in Charleston,' reports van Vuuren. 'Our hydrogenerator has an issue and it probably couldn't cope with the speed and is worn quite badly,' he explains. 'And what a speed! Our top speed of today… 19.4kts!'
As the GOR sailors continue racing, Van Vuuren’s challenge to the teams on Monday to supply a logical explanation for the existance of flying fish has sparked results. Conrad Colman states his case from Cessna Citation: 'The ‘purpose of flying fish’ is an evolutionary fight or flight mechanism,' he explains. 'Mako sharks, with their evil temperament, are more prone to fight whereas the humble flying fish takes refuge in flight,' he continues. 'Fast fish like tuna are their primary predators, as are dolphins. I saw a pod of dolphins chasing the flying fish and it looked like New Year's Eve with fireworks going off all over the place!' he adds.
On Phesheya-Racing, Phillippa Hutton-Squire applies her extensive wildlife knowledge to the problem: 'Flying fish are from the family known as Exocoetidae, which roughly translates to ‘sleeping outside’ as in the old days they thought that the fish left the water to sleep ashore!' she explains. 'Using their pectoral fins they can leap out of the water to hide or escape from predators by gliding through the air,' she continues. 'Before they re-enter the sea, they fold their fins or drop their tails into the water to lift themselves up for another glide or to change direction. Then at night time the fish get confused and do suicidal tricks by landing on the deck and flap their fins to try and get themselves back into the sea but normally fail and die helplessly on the deck. Silly fish!'
While the flying fish debate heats-up, tactics are also becoming more complicated for the final miles of Leg 4 as areas of light wind evolve ahead of the fleet. Scott Cavanough provides a brief synopsis: 'The last 1,000 miles will be interesting as we have a couple of high pressure systems to cross and a very tactical final few days,' he predicts. 'So, should be fun!'
Global Ocean Race website