Global Ocean Race leader Campagne de France reached the Cape Verde Islands shortly before midnight on Wednesday after ten days of racing in Leg 1 from Mallorca to Cape Town. As the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron left the island of Sal to port and entered the 150-mile wide archipelago, Ross and Campbell Field on board BSL followed in second place, 36 miles off the race leader’s starboard quarter, with both boats averaging ten knots in following breeze.
At sunrise on Thursday, Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon in third on Cessna Citation were 127 miles behind the race leaders with a 96 mile lead over Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs on Financial Crisis as the two boats dropped south-west through the Atlantic in around 19 knots of north-easterly breeze. North of the Cape Verde Islands by 500 miles at sunset on Wednesday, Phesheya-Racing was making the best speed in the fleet at 11 knots in fifth place leading Sec. Hayai by 20 miles as the two Class40s began their route away from the coast of Africa.
By Thursday afternoon, the leaders were struggling through the islands in minimal breeze as the chasing fleet began to consider the Cape Verde options. Throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs gybed constantly as they took Financial Crisis across the 400 miles of North Atlantic separating the Cape Verde Islands from Africa. 'We've had mixed feelings all day about the route to follow,' admitted Marco Nannini as the duo approached the islands. 'Cessna seems now committed to go west of the Cape Verdes which may be a successful flier considering that both Campagne de France and BSL have slowed down since reaching the archipelago,' he says.
'As for us, we don't have any huge commitments and we're debating whether to go for steak at Santo Antao or Pizza at Boa Vista.' The duo are also looking ahead to the route south: 'We’re trying to locate the fastest passage across the Doldrums and into the South Atlantic and by superimposing satellite imagery and weather model data, we concluded that steak is actually our preferred option,' confirms Nannini, taking the western alternative near the densely forested peaks and sheer ravines of Santo Antao.
Nannini and Peggs estimate that they will encounter five days of light winds before reaching the Doldrums: 'The infamous Doldrums where tropical storms and gusty winds will alternate with no wind to the horror of a sailor trying to get through without going insane,' Nannini warns. While the two yachtsmen appreciate the psychological risks of the days ahead, it appears the team’s mascot is already deeply troubled:
'Clubby the Seal was disappointed today to learn that Sarah Palin will not run for the 2012 US elections,' reports Nannini. 'She was an inspiration to many of us in the Alaskan wilderness,' wrote the anxious animal in a blog from Financial Crisis. 'If a pitbull with lipstick could make it, then why not a seal with a funky hat? What's my purpose in life now?' pleads Clubby. 'I used to think I wanted to be Steve Jobs, but I'm not so sure about that either today. All that I knew in life is changing and I feel lost.'
Meanwhile, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing had put an extra 10 miles into their lead over Sec. Hayai overnight: 'At midnight we officially entered the Tropics and shook out a reef almost as a token to acknowledge that we are now in steady Trade Winds,' reported Phillippa Hutton-Squire at midday on Thursday. 'We are now looking at our longer term strategy which is where we need to position ourselves to cross the windless zone of the Doldrums,' she explains. The ocean racing adage of ‘west is best’ for crossing the Doldrums appears to be valid:
'It certainly looks as if we could benefit from being much further west and to try and make some westing without losing out too much in the short term we have been carrying out gybes whenever there is even a little shift in the wind.'
Conrad Coleman and Hugo Ramon on Cessna Citation were 80 miles north-east of Santo Antao at 15:00 GMT on Thursday and for the youngest team in the GOR fleet, fighting fatigue had become a priority: 'We were both tired yesterday,' admitted Ramon on Thursday morning. 'We’re working with a three-hours-on-three-hours-off set up and this usually extends by about 30 minutes during the handover,' he confirms. For Colman, the duration and sequence of the downtime is fine, however Ramon prefers less sleep, but with more frequency.
Looking foward on Cessna Citation - Cessna Citation
'During daylight, nobody sleeps but the watch system continues and the off watch crew keeps busy organising the boat.' However, there is a flaw: 'If the daytime off watch crew decides to have a kip, the guy on watch is obliged to allow him three hours in dreamland in addition to the one or two hours he has already spent off watch pottering about the boat,' Ramon explains.' This is perfect for the guy off watch, but can result in five hours on duty for the other guy!'
By midday on Thursday, the race leaders had stalled in the centre of the Cape Verde Islands. 'Stuck. Parked. Sweating,' wrote Campbell Field as BSL drifted to a standstill. 'After a reasonable 24 hours minimising losses to Halvard and Miranda ahead of us and dealing with a few pretty random shifts and fluctuations in air temp, sea temp, current and barometric pressure changes, we have landed in the middle of a sweat hole in the Cape Verdes.'
As the GOR fleet drops closer to the Equator, the sun is spending much longer directly overhead and the Class40s
are turning into floating ovens with very limited shade: 'Currently it is hotter than hell and sleeping inside is near impossible during the day,' he confirms. 'As we are currently windless and ghosting along at the stately rate of 0.5 knots, Ross is fast asleep on the foredeck in the shade of the sails,' Campbell Field continues. 'My turn for a nap will be this afternoon, so hope like hell the wind is up then as the sun will be inescapable.'
While the boat has been virtually static, drifting on a two-knot current through the islands, the Fields have been looking at the route ahead, but weather conditions are extremely confusing: 'One shift came last night as the barometer plummeted about 1mb in three hours which was alarming!' says Campbell. 'A bit perplexing as after some very careful reviewing of the weather systems from here south in order to plan our dive south and over the Equator, it looked like things were pretty straight forward,' he explains.
'A couple of tropical waves and some minor, intense cloud activity was even suggesting that the Doldums were relatively non-existent.' The time spent drifting cost the Fields an extra ten miles as Campagne de France kept up around five knots, exiting the archipelago at 15:00 GMT, leaving the western island of Brava 20 miles to port with BSL 37 miles astern.
While the Fields pondered on navigation and meteorology, Halvard Mabire had been contemplating flying fish: 'A Norman or Breton would think it was a flying mackerel, which gives an idea of the size and shape of a decent flying fish, but it looks more like a sardine and I would say that the taste is somewhere between the two,' he advises. In recent days, Campagne de France has been covered with a steady supply of the creatures.
'If we can, and if the fish are still alive after their crash landing, we return them to the sea, telling them to look where they are going next time,' says Mabire. 'Even if they’re dead we return them to the sea as, so far, we haven’t snared one big enough to improve our daily fare and on this subject, I would like to know what the minimum legal size is for a flying fish,' requests the Frenchman. 'We know the size for mackerel, sea bass, crabs, lobster and so on… but I have never heard the minimum legal size for flying fish discussed. We would be grateful if someone could enlighten us on this subject.'
In sixth place, Nico Budel and Ruud van Rijsewijk with Sec. Hayai were trailing Phesheya-Racing by 29 miles at 15:00 GMT. Before exiting the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, the Dutch crew of Sec Hayai suffered severe damage to their two spinnakers.
The GOR Race committee has subsequently applied a 72 hour penalty to Sec. Hayai. Josh Hall the GOR’s Race Director explains:
'The Race Committee received a request from Nico Budel for permission to collect a replacement spinnaker in The Canary Islands,' says Hall. 'After due consideration, this permission was granted on the basis that the Race Committee prefers that an individual boat does not fall far behind the fleet if it can possibly be avoided.
It was felt that with no useable spinnaker on board this would happen to Sec Hayai during the remainder of Leg 1. However, due consideration was given to the various race rules that this exercise would infringe and also to ensuring that a ‘performance enhancing’ pit-stop should be penalised.' It has therefore been decided that a 72-hour penalty will be applied to the arrival time of Sec Hayai in Cape Town.
At the same time as making this decision, the Race Committee were notified that the International Jury had dismissed the protest of Financial Crisis against Cessna Citation which had been lodged shortly after the race start in Palma, Mallorca.
Global Ocean Race website