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Global Ocean Race leaders beyond the ice limit and dropping south

by Oliver Dewar on 19 Dec 2011
Onboard Phesheya Racing - Global Ocean Race 2011-12 Phesheya Racing
In the Global Ocean Race, the five strong fleet of double-handed Class40s were battered as they crossed the most remote area of the Indian Ocean in the midst of a cold front and deep low pressure system. The two lead boats, Cessna Citation and BSL, have dropped to 48S after their crossing of the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate at Kerguelen Island. The majority of the fleet remain further north in Roaring Forties with Financial Crisis and Phesheya Racing in fourth and fifth losing miles as the front sweeps past forcing the two Class40s to take avoiding action.

On Thursday, Cessna Citation and BSL reached the western end of the GOR’s Australian Ice Limit at 45S, increasing speeds dramatically while Campagne de France in third languished temporarily in unusually light winds, waiting for the low pressure system and strong breeze. When the low pressure arrived, winds of 52 knots lashed the fleet, building monstrous seas and forcing many of the teams to adopt survival mode. After 19 days and over 4,000 miles of sailing in Leg 2 from Cape Town to Wellington, the GOR fleet is currently strung over 1,300 miles in the Indian Ocean’s high latitudes with the recent, very tough week adding 700 miles to the overall spread between the boats.

At midnight GMT on Saturday as the sun rose at 45S, Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild led the fleet around the eastern end of the 800-mile long Australian Ice Limit on Cessna Citation. 'Freedom!' exclaimed Sam Goodchild on Sunday morning. 'For the next 2,000 miles to Wellington, we can go wherever we like.' Throughout Sunday, Cessna Citation dropped south-east averaging 11.5 knots at 15:00 GMT, clear of any virtual marks or exclusion zones.

'This makes it the slightly more tactically interesting and also opens up opportunities for the guys behind to make up some of the miles lost, so we have to be careful.' At 15:00 GMT Ross and Campbell Field and BSL were 143 miles behind Colman and Goodchild. 'Over the last few days we have been benefiting from a ‘rich-get-richer’ weather situation which has allowed us to extend our lead,' explains the Artemis Offshore Academy sailor. 'But, the same way this bungee attaching us to BSL stretches, we expect it to contract over the final ten days and our aim is to stay safe and minimise the loses.'

At 10:00 GMT on Sunday, Ross and Campbell Field cleared the end of the ice limit, pointing BSL south-east and dropping sharply below 45S, making fractionally better speeds than Cessna Citation by 15:00 GMT. En route into the Southern Ocean, Ross Field has become distracted:

'I ‘m trying to get a photo of the biggest albatross that I have ever seen,' he reported in a brief email on Sunday morning. 'It’s like a 747 - the only difference is a 747 wing tips point up and the albatross's hang down,' he continues. 'Maybe the 747 designer should come down and have a look,' suggests Ross. 'It cruises passed the back of the boat so close that you can see it eye balling you – it’s so big that it nearly blocks out the sun!'

Since the frequency of 50-knot gusts decreased through Saturday, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron are gybing east above the ice limit with Campagne de France, trailing BSL by 406 miles at 15:00 GMT and trailing Cessna Citation by 549 miles. Just before the weekend, Colman and Goodchild set a new GOR 24-hour distance record of 350 miles and the speeds of Cessna Citation have impressed Halvard Mabire: 'Their Akilaria Class40 is clearly named after a plane for a good reason and their performance has been quite remarkable,' he says.

'With the speeds the ‘youngsters’ are putting in, it’s clear that everything is taken up a notch with each new generation of offshore sailors and they’re getting better and better,' Mabire believes. 'I was about Conrad and Sam’s age when I took the role of navigator in my first Whitbread race in 1981-82,' he recalls. 'In those days, none of us feared anything, which was partly due to the fact that we really didn’t know what we were getting into – it was vital to have a constant adrenaline rush, but that’s what being young is all about.'

The technology in offshore racing may have changed since Mabire’s first round-the-world race, but the fundamental nature of offshore racing remains the same. 'Water is still as wet as it always used to be, but when you’re young, it just seem to dry out a little more quickly,' he adds

At 15:00 GMT on Sunday, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon on Financial Crisis were approaching the western end of the Australian Ice Limit, 540 miles west of Campagne de France and celebrating the news that Ramon had been presented with a prestigious Spanish sailing award during a satellite phone call with the prize ceremony being held at the Real Club Nautico de Palma, Mallorca, on Saturday night. See a Spanish-language video of Hugo Ramon discussing the award on board Financial Crisis below:

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Trailing Financial Crisis by 286 miles on Sunday afternoon, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing were unhappy with their performance and the inability of the Class40’s autopilot to cope with strong breeze, forcing the duo to reduce sail. However, help was at hand:

'The best thing about the Global Ocean Race is the characters and camaraderie involved in the event,' wrote Nick Leggatt on Sunday morning. 'To be honest, this was one of the features that attracted us to Class40 in the first place, but the Global Ocean Race epitomises the spirit of Class40,' he believes.

'On the water the competition is fierce, but co-operation between the skippers ultimately makes the Class40 even more competitive,' adds Leggatt. 'Here, deep in the Roaring Forties, our closest neighbours are our competitors and each of them has played a role in helping us to get to where we are,' he confirms. 'Perhaps through the invaluable advice given by BSL and Campagne de France at the Leg 1 debrief, for example, or through friendly discussions on the dock or the loan of tools and equipment from Cessna Citation and Sec. Hayai.'

Growing increasingly frustrated and unable to find a solution to the autopilot issue, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire emailed Nannini and Ramon for advice and a prompt and full response from Financial Crisis was immediate:

'As Financial Crisis is a near-identical sister ship to Phesheya-Racing, this advice has been really important to us,' says Leggatt. 'Marco has provided some excellent insight into adjusting the autopilot settings which is a lot clearer than the owner’s manual provided with the pilot,' he adds.

'We have now increased the sail area again and are pushing a bit harder.' On Sunday afternoon, average speeds were increasing on Phesheya-Racing to over nine knots despite strong winds of over 25 knots. 'We can certainly feel that the boat is a lot happier now with the new autopilot settings and we are suddenly looking forward to the second half of this leg with renewed enthusiasm!'

With 2,100 miles remaining to the finish line in Wellington, Sam Goodchild has started looking at the weather files and counting down: 'Our current ETA is for the 27/28th December, however it’s not going to be easy as we have a strong front coming through that has already dished out a fair amount of abuse to the fleet in the west and an area of light winds all before we have to make a decision to pass to the East or West of South Island,' he explains.

With a potential for another nine days before reaching land, Colman and Goodchild have been debating the Southern Hemisphere’s cultural differences: 'Contrary to popular, Northern Hemisphere belief, Australia and New Zealand are not the same place,' says Goodchild.

'According to my Kiwi skipper, they say ‘Feesh n’ Cheeps’ instead of ‘Fush n’ Chups’ when discussing what is known as fish n’ chips to the rest of the world!' he explains. 'Apart from that, I see no difference, which leads me to conclude that a Kiwi is a Southern Hemisphere Welshman,' states Goodchild. 'They are both good at rugby, speak a bit funny and get offended when you call them by their neighbouring country of Australia and England…'

GOR Leg 2 leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 18/12/2011:

1. Cessna Citation: DTF 2,163 11.5kts
2. BSL: DTL 143 11.7kts
3. Campagne de France: DTL 549 10.1kts
4. Financial Crisis: DTL 1091 9.6kts
5. Phesheya-Racing: DTL 1377 9.4kts

Global Ocean Race website

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