Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on the third leg of racing, from Wellington to Punta del Este.
At around 04:30 GMT on Friday, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel were the first GOR Class40 to cross the extended leg three bluQube Scoring Gate, grabbing the maximum six points with Cessna Citation and immediately dropping deeper into the Pacific with 2,000 miles in the Furious Fifties ahead of the Kiwi-South African team until they reach the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate and exit the Southern Ocean.
In second place on Financial Crisis, the good news that Marco Nannini had been made Italian Sailor of The Year was balanced by the destruction of the Class40’s masthead spinnaker – a costly loss for Nannini and his Spanish co-skipper, Hugo Ramon. While the two southern boats are racing off the wind with south-westerly breeze from a low pressure system rolling east through the Southern Ocean below the Class40s, furthest north in third place, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on the GOR’s South African entry, Phesheya-Racing, are enduring variable headwinds and rough seas as they wait for the tail winds to arrive.
As Colman and Kuttel shot across the bluQube Scoring Gate averaging 13 knots on Cessna Citation, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon were 170 miles to the west making ten knots with Financial Crisis: 'The last 48 hours have finally given us some following winds and faster sailing conditions,' confirmed a very relieved Marco Nannini. 'This came as a huge relief, although sailing downwind at high speeds presents its own challenges too.' For the Italian-Spanish duo, a split second of pilot malfunction cost Financial Crisis their masthead spinnaker. 'It was a problem similar to that already experienced by Phesheya a few days ago,' he explains. 'The autopilot suddenly pushed the tillers to one side, enough to send the boat into a violent crash gybe and with mainsail and spinnaker on the wrong side the boat was pinned down, the spinnaker hard pressed against mast and rigging ripped in half before we even got to release it.'
With 2,000 miles of the Southern Ocean remaining and around 1,800 miles of racing north through the South Atlantic to the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, the loss of their masthead asymmetric is a major blow: 'This is likely to cost us dearly in terms of performance,' admits the Italian skipper, 'but there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it as the sail cannot be fixed on board.' As Nannini and Ramon came to terms with the destruction of a valuable sail, it was show time at 49S with a satellite phone call from Italy’s Il Giornale della Vela yachting magazine. 'It was a live link with Italy during the ceremony for the Italian Sailor of the Year award which I won thanks to the many votes received by those who have been following my tribulations to be part of the Global Ocean Race,' says Nannini (watch a pre-recorded video of Marco Nannini accepting the award here). The skipper of Financial Crisis joins a selection of Italy’s Olympic sailing medallists and offshore maestro, Giovanni Soldini, on the award’s roll of honour.
In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Friday, Cessna Citation held a lead of 179 miles over Financial Crisis as Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel drop below 50S, deeper into the Southern Ocean on starboard reach averaging just under 12 knots. Around 200 miles north-east of Cessna Citation lies Point Nemo, the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility or, in plain English, the most geographically remote piece of water on the planet furthest from any land. Point Nemo’s nearest land is Ducie Island, an uninhabited atoll in the Pitcairn Islands 1,700 miles due north.
While Colman and Kuttel head into the Furious Fifties, Nannini and Ramon are 70 miles from crossing the bluQube Scoring Gate which was extended south by 180 miles early GMT on Thursday. 'The GOR Race Committee has decided to extend the southern limit of the scoring gate from 47S to 50S in light of the upwind conditions that we would be likely to encounter and the fact that every boat is now out of a main area of known ice,' explains Nannini. 'A pragmatic approach that puts our safety first,' he adds.
On Phesheya-Racing, 920 miles north-west of Financial Crisis, it’s upwind-business-as-usual for Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 'Over the last day or so we have been tacking and stacking,' reported Hutton-Squire on Friday morning. 'The wind has been very variable as we sail around the edge of the trough and north of the trough there’s a little low pressure system forming.' The system quickly grew with winds of around 30 knots spinning clockwise around its centre. 'We have to be careful not to get too far east as we will get strong headwinds,' she predicts. 'So we have been playing the shifts by tacking to stay north.'
Reporting thick mist completely obscuring the full moon, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire are once again in the horrific conditions that have stalked Phesheya-Racing for well over one week. 'Now we’re sailing straight into the waves and slamming, bouncing, bashing and being thrown around like a rag doll,' says Hutton-Squire. 'It’s very uncomfortable and sleeping tonight is going to be the biggest challenge,' she adds. 'The wind is forecast to be very light, but we have been having anything from ten – 20 knots in a matter of minutes.' On Friday afternoon GMT, in a brief email to the GOR Race Organisation, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire advised that they were hove-to with Phesheya-Racing becoming frequently airborne. 'The positive side is that soon we hope to be sailing down wind,' says Hutton-Squire. 'We keep telling ourselves that, but hopefully next time we’re in contact we’ll have the wind from behind or aft of the beam.'
In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Friday, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire were near the centre of the low pressure system with weather files predicting following, south-westerly or westerly breeze for Phesheya-Racing within six hours as the system slips south. GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 10/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 3391 11.9kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 179 9.2kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 1107 4.1kts Global Ocean Race website