by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) competitor Phesheya-Racing is the final Class40 racing in the third leg from Wellington to Punta del Este, Uruguay.
GOR Race Tracker 15:00 GMT 06/03/2012 - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
At 15:00 GMT on Tuesday Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire has finally found following winds as the South African team closes in on the coast of Argentina with 205 miles remaining to the finish line.
However the final yards of the 6,300-mile leg are proving to be punishing. Following a knockdown on Sunday, the upwind sailing continued throughout Monday despite the promise of off wind sailing from GRIB files. 'We continued to beat into a fearsomely steep and nasty sea throughout the day,' reported Phillippa Hutton-Squire early on Tuesday morning. Damage had been sustained to the staysail, forcing the South Africans to sail with the headsail reefed, but the option of changing up to a bigger sail was denied: 'With Phesheya-Racing being pummelled by one squall after another, we were reluctant to go all the way to the Solent jib, especially as we were still optimistically hoping that the wind would shift behind us and we would have to gybe soon,' she continues.
Throughout daylight on Monday, Phesheya-Racing slammed upwind: 'So all day long we continued to beat northwards into miserable conditions, only broken by the sighting of a lone fishing boat and, later, a lone cargo ship, but otherwise there was not much else to be seen on the windswept horizon,' explains Hutton-Squire. Relief came at midnight GMT Monday/Tuesday: 'We crossed the 40th parallel of latitude and suddenly the long awaited wind shift was upon us,' she says. Once again, close to the coast, the GRIB files were conflicting with reality. 'It wasn’t the gradual shift predicted by the weather forecast, but rather an almost instantaneous 180 degree change that called for a quick easing of the sheets followed by an immediate gybe.'
Since the south-easterly breeze arrived, speeds have increased to eight to nine knots. 'Ever since then we’ve been running downwind in a slowly decreasing seaway,' adds Hutton-Squire. 'A pod of Common dolphins have accompanied us for the past three hours, whistling and squeaking as they frolic in the bright moonlight.' With 200 miles remaining to the finish line in Punta del Este, the forecast – trustworthy or not – suggests light winds for the South Africans as they approach the mouth of Rio de la Plata.
Meanwhile in Punta del Este, the two teams already across the Leg 3 finish line are looking forward to welcoming Leggatt and Hutton-Squire and – having recently returned to the UK from a successful campaign with her all-female team on Al Thuraya Bank Muscat in the Sailing Arabia – The Tour, GOR Race Ambassador, Dee Caffari, offers some encouragement: 'One thing is for sure, the celebrations that occur once you have survived the Southern Ocean last for a long time,' says Dee. 'So we can reassure Phillippa and Nick that there will still be plenty of opportunity to celebrate when they arrive in Punta del Este in a couple of days’ time,' she predicts. 'They continue to be fully-tested even in these final miles as they close the coast,' comments Caffari. 'Difficult weather is keeping this team on board Phesheya-Racing busy and as a result, when they get to the finish line they will more than deserve the drink, fresh food, shower, clean clothes and uninterrupted sleep in a bed!'
While the South Africans climb from the south towards Punta del Este, Nico Budel and Sec. Hayai are approaching Uruguay from the north to re-join the GOR fleet for Legs 4 and 5. Currently 770 miles due east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after 35 days at sea solo-sailing from Cape Town with his brand new carbon rig, the 72-year-old Dutchman has 1,400 miles remaining to Punta del Este.
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 06/03/12:
1. Cessna Citation Finished 20:37:30 GMT 29/2/12
2. Financial Crisis Finished 10:54:20 GMT 04/03/12
3. Phesheya-Racing DTF 205 8.8kts
Global Ocean Race website