by Oliver Dewar
Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel crossed the Global Ocean Race (GOR) Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in first place with their Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation at 18:37:30 local time on Wednesday 29 February (20:37:30 GMT).
Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel win GOR Leg 3 with Class40 Cessna Citation
After a slow final 24 hours crossing the 120-mile wide mouth of the Rio de la Plata, the 28 year-old Kiwi, Conrad Colman, and his 41 year-old South African co-skipper, Adrian Kuttel, eventually took 31 days 18 hours 37 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the 6,300 mile course from Wellington, New Zealand, to Uruguay.
In south-easterly breeze, Colman and Kuttel sailed the final miles off the wind, crossing the finish line between the Puerto de Punta del Este harbour break water and an inflatable buoy laid just east of Isla Gorriti. Escorted into the marina by two RIBs from the Yacht Club Punta del Este (YCPE), Cessna Citation was welcomed by a crowd of well-wishers including the Commodore of the YCPE, Horacio Garcia Pastori and the club’s Secretary, Pablo Elola, who had both been in Palma at the start of GOR Leg 1.
Mooring stern-to, Colman and Kuttel were quick to step ashore onto solid land after a month at sea. 'Sign me up for the next one!' said Colman when questioned if he’d repeat Leg 3. 'It was fantastic sailing, just full-on,' added Kuttel as the champagne celebrations began.
Having led the fleet into Cook Strait after the start in Wellington, Colman and Kuttel retook the lead in Leg 3 after four days of racing, overhauling Ross and Campbell Field on Buckley Systems 1,000 miles south-east of Wellington as the fleet encountered strong headwinds in the Roaring Forties. With the Kiwi father-and-son team on Buckley Systems returning to New Zealand with a serious injury to Ross Field’s back and the simultaneous decision to turn back made by Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France, Cessna Citation led the fleet east, crossing the mid-Pacific bluQube Scoring Gate eight days after taking pole position with a 125-mile lead over Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon on Financial Crisis.
Having cleared the mandatory waypoint, Cessna Citation dropped sharply south, but progress came to an abrupt halt at 54S as Colman and Kuttel ran straight into a high pressure ridge stretching across the Furious Fifties. 'All the books make a big thing of gales at 60S, but there we were, sitting there twiddling our thumbs and looking stupid,' commented Colman of the dead calm they experienced.
With speeds dropping to below five knots and occasionally below one knot, Nannini and Ramon closed in, taking the lead briefly on the 18th day at sea. 'Sitting on deck, freezing with Marco and Hugo charging down on us was just terrible,' admits Kuttel and for Colman, this was the low point of Leg 3: 'We signed up for the worst,' he states. 'But the most unpleasant bit wasn’t the gales, it was the calms.'
As the two Class40s picked up speed racing shoulder-to-shoulder through the Southern Ocean, both boats passed through an ice field identified by the GOR Race Organisation prior to the start of Leg 3 via satellite images with visual sightings of two ‘large-ish’ bergs at 56S by Colman and Kuttel. Colman recalls the moment the bergs were spotted: 'We were in the middle of a sail change and Adrian said ‘There’s something over there’,' he explains. Kuttel is frank about the experience: 'The icebergs added a couple of grey hairs,' he admits, scratching his new beard.
Racing below the latitude of Cape Horn, Financial Crisis took the lead again as the two boats approached 60S, but as reaching conditions arrived with southerly wind from Antarctica, Colman and Kuttel’s Akilaria RC2 Class40 took off towards the cape with the duo gambling on outrunning a deep low pressure system forecast to produce horrific conditions in the shallow water of Drake Passage south of Cape Horn. 'There was some pressure there to get moving,' says Kuttel with immense understatement.
The Kiwi-South African duo pushed hard hitting average, sustained speeds between 12-14 knots, outpacing the gale and rounding Cape Horn early on 22 February, sailing through the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate 90 miles south of Horn Island after 24 days of racing with a 297-mile lead over Financial Crisis. With typical optimism, sailing out of sight of the cape isn’t an issue for Colman: 'It gives me a good excuse to come back again and get closer,' he confirms.
With the gale rolling north-east and chasing Cessna Citation, Colman and Kuttel opted to avoid the narrow Le Maire Strait between mainland Tierra del Fuego and Isla de los Estados, leaving the island to port and entering the South Atlantic. Leaving the Falkland Islands to starboard, Colman and Kuttel hooked into strong south-easterly wind spinning from the back of a low pressure system off Patagonia, making impressive speeds in big seas along the shallow water of the Latin American continental shelf and extending their lead over Financial Crisis to 500 miles as Nannini and Ramon were hammered by headwinds west of the Falklands and the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire approached Cape Horn on Phesheya-Racing.
For Conrad Colman, the Patagonian low pressure was clearly the toughest part of the voyage: 'We got a proper blow when we buried into a depression on the way up here and we had 50 knots at times and sustained 40s with boat speeds in the mid-20s pretty regularly,' says the Kiwi skipper. 'It’s astonishing because the boat just kept trucking and it was fairly easy,' he continues. 'What a rocket ship this boat is,' says Colman of his Akilaria RC2. Kuttel agrees totally: 'She takes a beating and then comes back for more,' he adds.
As the low pressure system moved east into the South Atlantic, Colman and Kuttel found light airs as they closed in on the coast of Argentina with a slow finish in weak headwinds as they crossed the mouth of Rio de la Plata during their final 24 hours at sea. As the two skippers headed off for a celebration at the YCPE courtesy of Tony Lawson and his Class40 racing campaign, Team Concise, Colman was clearly delighted with his second win of the circumnavigation: 'Being first out of Wellington and being first here is really very special,' he adds.
Meanwhile, 515 miles south of the finish line in second place, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon are 100 miles off the coast of Patagonia with Financial Crisis, while Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are 50 miles north-west of the Falkland Islands trailing Financial Crisis by 470 miles with Phesheya-Racing.
GOR leaderboard at 23:00 GMT 29/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation Finished 20:37:30 GMT 29/2/12
2. Financial Crisis DTF 515 6.6kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 469 3.8kts