In the Global Ocean Race the two leading boats have escaped from the high pressure ridge that stretched across the unusually calm Furious Fifties.
Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon are now celebrating their successful game of catch-up and a brief spell at the front of the fleet aboard Financial Crisis. In third place, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire, aboard Phesheya Racing, battle 40+ knot squalls as they barrel downwind towards the blueQube Scoring Gate.
In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Wednesday, Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis were gradually picking up speed as the high pressure ridge recedes to the north, allowing the two Class40s to continue towards Cape Horn, 1,300 miles to the east with Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel on Cessna Citation back in the lead by 14 miles, finding the new northerly breeze first. Furthest south at 56S and 45 miles off Colman and Kuttel’s starboard quarter, Marco Nannini can hardly believe he’s back near the front:
'Who would have imagined that in the third and most symbolic of legs, heading for Cape Horn, we would be battling for the lead of the Global Ocean Race,' comments Nannini.
'The storms of the early part of this leg seem now a distant memory and in the southern depths of the Pacific Ocean at 55 degrees South, on the edge of iceberg territory, we are sailing in sunshine, flat waters and just enough wind - around six to eight knots - to keep moving,' he reported early on Wednesday morning.
As Financial Crisis moved into the lead at midnight GMT Tuesday/Wednesday, Hugo Ramon was ecstatic: 'Today, I’m in love with life,' revealed the Spanish sailor.
'And life, like a good lover, has given me a gift: a brief moment of being leaders of the Global Ocean Race after two weeks of strong winds and intense fights.' However, Financial Crisis is handicapped by the destruction of the boat’s A2 masthead spinnaker:
Thumbs up from Hugo Ramon - Financial Crisis
'We know that it may be impossible, or very difficult, to stay elbow-to-elbow with Cessna Citation, but I’m proud of ourselves while it lasts,' he continues.
'In order to celebrate the position of being the leaders, I have decided to take off my filthy rags and pass a damp hand towel over me for the first time since the start on 29 January. I can’t tell which parts of me are blue with cold, or just really dirty!' reveals Ramon.
As Nannini and Ramon caught Cessna Citation, the conditions were extremely un-Southern Ocean: 'The wind is light and we were the only thing in the Southern Ocean causing a ripple in the water as we crept forward under the masthead Code 0,' says Ramon.
'Our movements about the boat have been clumsy with the big waves we’ve had since the start, but we’ve recovered our balance and we’re trying to keep movement to a minimum,' he adds as the Italian-Spanish team replicate a windless inshore regatta: 'The word ‘fine trimming’ has returned to our onboard vocabulary and in spite of the polar cold, it is worth the pain to spend more time on deck to gain one hundredth of knot,' he continues. 'When returning to the boat’s interior, we monopolized the kettle, wrapping our hands around it as we make some tea.'
Currently averaging 6.2 knots, Marco Nannini is frank about the huge recent gains: 'Admittedly, the weather has helped us in this feat as a ridge of light airs slowed down the leading boat whilst we kept more wind and closed in, but now it’s all game-on again,' he explains.
'We’re in the same winds and battling for the lead of the race,' confirms the Italian skipper. 'I would have never imagined this to be possible, the spirits are high and we are enjoying the moment.' Weather models currently suggest there may be a period of upwind sailing ahead for both Financial Crisis and Cessna Citation.
Meanwhile, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in third on Phesheya-Racing are eating into the deficit held by the leaders as they hammer downwind with 33 miles remaining until the South African team crosses the mid-Pacific, bluQube Scoring Gate. Making the best speed averages in the fleet on Wednesday afternoon, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire are in strong westerly breeze with gusts up to 46 knots. Although Phesheya-Racing has sophisticated, predictive weather software and the duo are skilled in forecasting analysis, they have received some unexpected guidance via their Sat-C satellite communications terminal.
'The Sat-C is a fairly basic, but quite clever, communications system allowing only simple text messages to be sent and received,' explains Phillippa Hutton-Squire.
'This system allows Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres worldwide to send weather forecasts, weather warnings, ice warnings, navigation warnings and search and rescue messages to all ships within their area of responsibility,' she continues.
'We are still in the New Zealand MRCC area and consequently receiving generic weather forecasts from the New Zealand MRCC, but a few days ago we were surprised to find that we were suddenly receiving personalised forecasts directly from the Chilean MRCC.'
At 48S and a fraction under 2,000 miles from the coast of Chile, Phesheya-Racing will soon enter Chilean MRCC territory: 'As we are about to cross into their area of responsibility we had been expecting to start receiving messages soon,' adds Hutton-Squire. 'But to receive personal weather forecasts directly is quite a bonus and very much appreciated.'
In the South Atlantic, the return of the Dutch Class40 and GOR entry, Sec. Hayai, is fully underway. Following a dismasting on the first night out of Cape Town in Leg 2, Nico Budel and his team have been working to re-join the GOR. Although competing in Leg 2 and Leg 3 was impossible, a new mast has been fitted and Nico Budel set sail from Cape Town single-handed early on Wednesday morning heading for Punta del Este, Uruguay, where he will rendezvous with the GOR fleet and his co-skipper for Leg 4, Erik van Vuuren.
GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 15/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 2709 7.2kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 14.8 6.2kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 849 8.6kts
Global Ocean Race website