It has been a tough couple of days onboard Green Dragon, the route through the Canary Islands proved crucial.
At 0400 GMT yesterday, Green Dragon pulled Stealth Play and went off the radar positioned to the north of the islands (Stealth Play allows a boat to hide its position from other teams and the race committee for 12 hours, this can only be used by each team once every leg). When they reappeared on the race course some 12 hours later, they had gone through the middle of the islands, positioned to the east of Tenerife and the west of Gran Canaria. Ian Walker and his crew went into Stealth Play in fourth place with less than 10 miles to the leader, they came out of it still holding fourth, but 55 miles behind the new leader PUMA.
Green Dragon’s navigator Ian Moore explained the situation,'When we gybed away from the pack we felt uneasy about it, but we felt that the big shift to more easterly winds would allow us to cope with better breeze on the African Coast. I think that we underestimated the good shifts everyone else was getting down that coast, as well as better breeze, and it quickly became apparent that we were going to have to take our medicine and get back in touch with the fleet. The obvious route was to slip down the west coast of Lanzarote, but we thought we would try and use some of the leverage we had created and take the passage between the two tallest islands in the Canaries. The wind did accelerate to 26 knots but only for two hours and we have left ourselves with a lot of work to do over the next few days. The fleet by the coast will probably extend in better pressure and we can only hope that some shift to the east will help to mitigate the loss'.
The fleet are now on the move south, PUMA are holding a small lead (8 miles) over Ericsson 3, but it is Ian Walker and his crew that have gained the most in the last 8 hours taking over 20 miles out of third placed Ericsson 4.
1600 GMT Current positions/DTL
1. PUMA / 0
2. Ericsson 3 / 8
3. Ericsson 4 / 45
4. Green Dragon / 53
5. Delta Lloyd / 80
6. Team Russia / 85
7. Telefonica Blue / 137
8. Telefonica Black / 217
Update from Skipper, Ian Walker
I’m starting to lose count of the days now, which is a good thing. Another good thing is that we have managed to cut our losses within the fleet and we are now in the same wind as the others. We have lost a few hours to the leaders, but fortunately we have gained some miles on the boats behind us. We made a mistake in underestimating the strength of the wind down the African coast, but we made a good decision to not be too stubborn and accept our loss without risking everything. Telefonica Black made the opposite call, and they are now some 220 miles away in less wind and at the mercy of the wind gods. So right now we are 4th and ahead of us lies a very wide looking Doldrums that are complicated by a tropical wave. We have sailed 1300 miles and we are half way to the Doldrums. Soon we will be gybing to the West again to try and line ourselves up for the trade winds.
Ericsson 4 have already made this break, but the rest of the fleet seems to be heading south with us. I have already done some of the most fantastic sailing. The nights have been crystal clear and the moon is so bright you could wear sunglasses. Right now it is 22 knots and we are averaging 20 knots downwind with the masthead A4 spinnaker and full main. The boat handles easily and it only takes four on deck - 1 steers, 1 trims, 1 grinds and 1 tells stories! Right now Neal is steering and recounting tales of Donald Crowhurst so one person is free to get the kettle on. I am in the navigation station working and listening to everything on the intercom whilst Ian Moore catches up on sleep. It has been a stressful two days for Ian and I, as we have had to come to terms with our mistake. We didn’t get much sleep. Ian has also had a lot to contend with trying to get all the media gear to work, and we have to keep dealing with late position reports and difficulties getting the weather. All of these problems will I am sure be ironed out as the race unfolds.
Fortunately the lads are as always, solid as a rock. We will learn from our small mistake and keep the pressure on the others. We have over 5000 miles still to go, so I suspect we will have forgotten all about this by the time we get to Cape Town. Right now the wind is 26 knots and the story telling has stopped which tells me I should probably get on deck and help out.
**Spinnaker - A large sail flown in front of the vessel while heading downwind (with the wind behind you).
**Donald Crowhurst (1932–1969)
Donald Crowhurst was a British businessman and amateur sailor who died while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a single-handed, round-the-world yacht race. Crowhurst had entered the race in hopes of winning a cash prize from the Sunday Times to aid his failing business. Instead, he encountered difficulty early in the voyage, and secretly abandoned the race while reporting false positions, in an attempt to appear to complete a circumnavigation without actually circling the world. Evidence found after his disappearance indicates that this attempt ended in insanity and suicide.
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