Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) leg one, from Mallorca to Cape Town is currently underway.
At 09:00 GMT on Thursday, under 500 miles of the double-handed, Class40 GOR remains for Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs leading the second wave of boats towards the finish line with Financial Crisis.
However, a fight to the finish for third place is fully underway with Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon in fourth on Cessna Citation positioned furthest north, piling on the pressure averaging over 12 knots early on Thursday and 14 knots for 12 hours producing sustained speeds in excess of 20 knots. On Financial Crisis, the Italian-British duo continue pushing their first generation Akilaria Class40 to the limit, averaging over 13 knots until the forecast shift of breeze to the south-west arrived with the expected loss of speed as Nannini and Peggs changed from reaching to running downwind.
With the gap between the frontrunners closing by 41 miles in the past 24 hours, Cessna Citation currently has the advantage, remaining in reaching conditions to the north, closer to the latitude of Cape Town and still thundering north-east towards the finish line with averages over 13 knots. While Colman and Ramon should remain reaching until Friday morning, Nannini and Peggs have a 92-mile lead over Cessna Citation and although their speeds have dropped to just below ten knot averages, the duo will keep sailing hard and avoid breakages in the succession of forthcoming gybes to ensure they keep ahead of Colman and Ramon.
For the New Zealand-Spanish duo on Cessna Citation, the past week has been exhausting: 'We've maintained our three-hours-on, three-ours-off schedule, but with the ramped up intensity, I'm beat,' admits Conrad Colman. The two single-handed Mini 6.50 sailors have adopted a punishing approach for the final sprint to the finish. 'We’ve opted to capitalize on our strengths as solo sailors and each of us takes turns at running the boat separately, but stocking up on sleep in the frequent rest periods so we can keep this charging beast balanced on a knife edge.' With the recent speed averages delivered by Cessna Citation, the edge is very sharp: 'Since turning south we haven't taken our foot of the loud pedal and have kept the same configuration of full main, staysail, big spinnaker and white knuckles,' he continues.
Despite the risks of carrying maximum canvas, Colman and Ramon aren’t pulling back: 'Last night, when we had gusts of nearly 30 knots, it was a real handful and we wiped out frequently, but we figure it’s better to sprint at risk of stubbing your toe, rather than jog it in safely.' In addition to the duo’s in-built confidence from solo sailing, support from a fully-engaged sponsor is a major bonus: 'The fact is, we have new sails and are willing to push them into their upper ranges in an effort to regain third place and I’m aware that many of our competitors are not so blessed and I must thank Cessna for their continued support in helping to keep our boat competitive.'
While the youngest team in the GOR push themselves and their boat hard, in sixth place, the Dutch duo of 72 year-old Nico Budel and 56 year-old Ruud van Rijsewijk are averaging 11 knots with Sec. Hayai keeping the deficit to the South African team of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing in fifth place at 80 miles. Trailing Cessna Citation by 94 miles at 09:00 GMT, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire used their jury-rigged spinnaker pole for the first time since losing the use of their bowsprit as the wind shifted to the south-west: 'We opted for the small bluQube A6 as the wind was gusty and shifty,' reports Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 'No sooner had we hoisted the sail than the wind began to back even more and we had to gybe.'
Phesheya-Racing – unlike the majority of Class40 teams – carries a spinnaker pole and the additional weight of this extra equipment is now paying off as the duo has lashed the spar to the foredeck and can fly spinnakers effectively. 'The bluQube A6 seems to be doing a great job being flown from the spinnaker pole, though it is a much more complicated manoeuvre to gybe it, compared to when it is on the bowsprit,' Hutton-Squire explains Nov. The South Africans have 670 miles remaining until crossing the finish line off their home port of Cape Town. Global Ocean Race website