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Global Ocean Race fleet handicapped by light airs

by Oliver Dewar on 24 May 2012
GOR Race Tracker 15:00 GMT 23/05/2012 - Global Ocean Race 2011-12 .
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) Class40s are relying on the Gulf Stream’s current as light airs continue to handicap the fleet.

While Tropical Storm Alberto has failed to materialise, the fleet has encountered a gaping hole of light wind 260 miles off the coast of the USA as the boats push east into the North Atlantic.

At 10:00 GMT on Wednesday, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo relinquished their lead with Financial Crisis as the Italian-Slovak Class40 began to slow down while Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough held onto the breeze on Cessna Citation further north, building a lead of 19 miles by mid-afternoon.

Meanwhile, trailing Nannini and Frattaruolo by 84 miles at 15:00 on Wednesday, Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt on Phesheya-Racing in third have kept a 13-mile lead over the Dutch father-and-son duo of Nico and Frans Budel with Sec. Hayai, but the Budel’s are averaging one knot faster than the South Africans as they enter a zone where GRIB files are currently predicting less than four knots.

On Cessna Citation, Colman and Cavanough were still averaging slightly under eight knots as the windless area ballooned across their path on the weather files: 'Welcome to the world of pogo-stick sailing,' commented Colman on Wednesday morning. 'Since leaving the welcoming confines of the Charleston Harbour we have been bouncing continually and the first night was truly horrendous - lightning flashes wrought the sky at scarily frequent intervals, its booming thunder drowned out only by the cacophony of our boat's impact with the waves.'

Despite the worst conditions passing, it still requires two hands to remain stable on Colman’s Akilaria RC2 Class40: 'Even then, and now, we have been bouncing on the turbulent waters, but it has paid dividends with a scary fast passage north that would have otherwise been impossible in the light wind,' continues the Kiwi skipper who has been relying on the Gulf Stream’s northerly current to keep moving: 'The wind has dropped-off completely and left us with zero knots of boat speed, but 5+ knots of speed over the ground thanks to the current,' he explains. 'We considered taking down the sails and throwing them in the water and then harnessing ourselves to them to be pulled through the water like Poseidon's chariot,' says Colman.

Despite the unreliable weather, spirits are high on board: 'Aside from chasing tendrils of wind from un-forecasted sectors while looking for an invisible river within the ocean while on a bouncing pogo-stick, life is all good aboard Cessna Citation,' Colman confirms. 'Scotty and I both were sick initially, but are now enjoying the new freeze dried range that we updated in America,' he adds.

In third place, trailing Cessna Citation by 103 miles on Wednesday afternoon, Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt on Phesheya-Racing were working hard and constantly changing sails to keep their Akilaria Class40 moving. 'Night skies filled with stars and blue sky days, it is warm sailing in the Gulf Stream,' reports Hutton-Squire, but the lack of stable breeze is painful: 'Rolling lumpy swells flogging the sails down the waves,' she continues. 'There is very little wind to speak of at the moment and any movement towards the bluQube Scoring Gate is caused by the Gulf Stream,' adds the South African skipper. 'There is very little sailing going on here!'

Having relinquished the lead, Nannini and Frattaruolo are still upbeat despite struggling with a 4.5-knot speed average on Wednesday afternoon. 'After facing Tropical Storm Alberto on the first night of Leg 5, the weather has changed in a maze of unpredictable winds,' Nannini reports from Financial Crisis. 'The conditions we met very often differed substantially from the forecast,' he adds. 'Our tactical choices seemed correct given the available information and we've managed to increase our lead of the identical boats in the fleet, Phesheya and Sec. Hayai,' says Nannini.

However, Colman and Cavanough are a different prospect: 'It’s much more difficult to keep Cessna under control and the new generation boat always breaks through thanks to her better performance,' explains the Italian-Slovak skipper. 'Only once before have we overtaken them during a leg, on the approach to Cape Horn, but just for a few hours until they disappeared again over the horizon...we may not beat them, but we sure enjoy teasing them!' he comments.

GOR leaderboard positions at 15:00 GMT 23/05/2012:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 2937 7.8kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 19 4.5kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 103 6.8kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 116 Global Ocean Race website
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