Two contenders go head to head as The Race gets closer

And the rest of the fleet makes good progress towards Barcelona

Monday December 18th 2000, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
The drama continues in the build-up to The Race as the fleet converges on Barcelona for the start on 31 December. For the first time, two of the contenders lined up against each other - off Antibes in the South of France, on Saturday afternoon. Loïck Peyron’s Innovation Explorer finally met her sistership, Grant Dalton’s Club Med.

The two boats went side by side for some time, although neither has commented publicly on their relative performance. Both cats then continued on their way to Barcelona where they will undergo one last major overhaul before they head south on their journey round the world.

The rest of the fleet continues to make good progress towards Barcelona. Stuart Radnovskey, media spokesman for PlayStation, told madforsailing on Monday morning: "They were in Gibraltar yesterday and they’ll be in Barcelona by tomorrow night. The designer Gino Morelli told me he was thrilled with the modifications and they are ready to take on The Race."

Radnovskey said Steve Fossett and his team had no intention of breaking any speed records before The Race. "We’ll leave that to other teams who need the publicity," he said. "There’s absolutely no reason to push things too hard before The Race. I’d be really upset if anyone broke their boat at this late stage. In any case, there’s going to be a speed demonstration on 23rd December in Barcelona for all the entrants."

Team Legato last reported in to its headquarters on Friday, when Tony Bullimore and his team were off the northern coast of France, but the updated Enza is believed to be making good progress to Barcelona.

Team Adventure entered the Mediterranean on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday night was sailing at 14 knots up the coast of Spain. Skipper Cam Lewis reported that the catamaran was about 280 miles from Barcelona, which means he should reach his destination some time on Monday.

The weather's improved enough since the early fraught stages of this delivery and qualification passage from Cherbourg, that co-navigator Larry Rosenfeld almost let his enthusiasm run away with him - he suggested bypassing Gibraltar in an attempt to set a new 24-hour distance record.

But others aboard the cat pointed out that in the next couple of months there will be many opportunities to set records. Team Adventure's short-term objective is to get to Barcelona and the start of The Race, and with that in mind they turned the corner and headed for the Straits of Gibraltar.

Shortly after lunch on Saturday, the maxi catamaran ripped through one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and finally entered the Mediterranean. A very upbeat Cam Lewis checked in via satellite phone. "We have ideal sailing conditions and have had a very exciting day gybing downwind in 16 to 20 knots of wind," he reported. "We are on course averaging a shade under 20 knots. Our next rendezvous will be a fly-by of Palma de Mallorca."

Lewis intended to continue his cracking pace past the island, slowing only momentarily to pick up a photographer and a sponsor guest from a waiting speedboat, but calm conditions on Saturday night forced him to abandon the plan.

As for Team Philips, most of the crew are enjoying a few extra days with their families in the lead up to Christmas, while Paul Larsen spends time in Barcelona with some of the Race challengers. Pete Goss has spent Monday morning updating the build and shore team on the events of the previous week.

A report on their website comments: "It was a relief for the team to hear first-hand what did happen, and how Team Philips played her own vital part in the safety of all the crew members. Team Philips was successfully polled this morning, and progress continues to be made on salvage plans. The team aim to reclaim the yacht as soon as possible."

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