BT Global Challenge - Leg 2 - 19th October

The fleet scatters before Hurricane Michael

Thursday October 19th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Just days into the second leg from Boston to Buenos Aires and the BT Global Challenge fleet is facing a hurricane. A tropical storm was upgraded to Hurricane Michael overnight Wednesday to Thursday, and winds are expected to be 55 knots with sustained gusts to 80 near the eye. The prediction centre in Miami reckons the fleet will need to be at least 90 nm from the centre to avoid the worst conditions.

The fleet's original course to Argentina had taken them straight into the centre of the storm, which was coming towards them on a path slightly east of north. All but one of the fleet has headed to the east, out into the Atlantic. The last to take evasive action were Save the Children and Olympic Group. But they too are now headed east with the rest of the fleet. Race meteorologist Chris Tibbs commented, 'If it goes to plan Olympic Group and Save the Children might get away with it. I still think they are risking it. They are either very brave or very lucky. We shall know which in a few hours.'

The only boat to have dodged to the west is Norwich Union. And this may make the most sense from a race strategy point of view. The winds rotating around a hurricane are going anti-clockwise, and they are the only boat to the west of the centre of the storm, with northerly breeze. They will be charging downwind, while the others will face storm conditions and be battling rough seas going upwind. Aboard Norwich Union, Neville Mags wrote, 'The news about the hurricane does make my heart shudder as I know how unpredictable they are. Depending on what route we take we could be in serious trouble, or we could come out smelling of roses and have an advantage over the rest of the fleet.'

The worst of the weather is expected to be early Thursday morning (the time of writing) and by Friday the yachts should be back in light air and sunshine. The BT Global Challenge website will report the latest information.

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