The Race - 0830 - 2/2/02

It's Club Med at Cook Strait, story by Sean McNeill, for Quokka Sports

Friday February 2nd 2001, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
The leader of The Race passed Cape Farewell, at the top of New Zealand's South Island, late yesterday and was expected to blast past Wellington early this morning - but no confirmation of that yet.

Club Med's New Zealand skipper and navigator Grant Dalton and Mike Quilter, respectively, guided their 110-foot catamaran 1.5 miles past the Cape Farewell beach yesterday evening at 2030 GMT (Friday morning New Zealand time), the westernmost point at the top of New Zealand's South Island.

The crew still had some 60 miles to sail until the beginning of Cook Strait, the body of water separating New Zealand's two islands. They're expected to pass the waypoint, off Wellington, at about 0100 GMT this morning.

"Cape Farewell is the first bit of land we will see, but I think that the Cook Strait proper begins 60 miles further east at Stephen's Island, a rocky islet just North of Cape Stephens on d'Urville Island, which is some 35 miles north-east of the town of Nelson," Dalton said.

Cook Strait is one of the mandatory passage points in The Race. The other points are the Cape of Good Hope, at the bottom of Africa; Cape Leeuwin, south-west Australia; and Cape Horn, at the bottom of South America.

"There were several reasons for choosing to pass through the Cook Straits," said The Race organizer Bruno Peyron. "Without putting them in order, it was for differentiating between The Race and the Jules Verne, to make them change weather systems, and perhaps for reshuffling the pack."

At the beginning of the week, as they entered the Tasman Sea, Dalton and Quilter were worried about a depression forming to the west of Tasmania. The concern was that it would produce light winds in the Tasman Sea, which could've slowed Club Med to a crawl.

That never developed. In fact, Club Med has powered through the last few days in ideal conditions with as much sail flying as possible. When polled at 1900 GMT last night, Club Med was sailing at 34 knots boatspeed on a course of 73 degrees.

"The big kite is up with full main set and we reached over 40 knots a few hours ago," Dalton reported earlier yesterday. "I was helming and at one point it just started to go faster and faster and I looked down and saw the speedo hover over 40 for a bit."

While Club Med has been able to stay ahead of any light winds, that may not be the case for Loïck Peyron's Innovation Explorer, running 820 miles astern of Club Med at 1900 GMT last night.

"The scenario we had envisaged with the anticyclone move over New Zealand hasn't happened," said Gilles Chiorri, of official weather service Météo Consult. "And Club Med is sailing on its eastern edge at a good clip."

Loick Peyron predicted breeze for tomorrow, but might have a difficult time getting to it. "Everything is perfect," he reported. "There are a few cirrus clouds in the sky announcing some wind for tomorrow, three albatrosses which have been playing with the boat for several hours, and a large swell that is pushing us along. But it should be getting tougher in the next few hours!"

The debate over whether Peyron will stop in Wellington, a mandatory 48-hour stopover, continues on, fuelled in part by the skipper. According to the race office, a freight plane carrying a reacher and daggerboard, two items sorely needed aboard the French cat, is scheduled to leave France on Saturday.

When asked if he'll stop, Peyron replied, "The decision concerning our stop will be made near the stopping area."

Latest Update - The latest standings have Club Med losing almost 200 miles in the last 12 hours - have they stopped? We'll keep you posted ...

Standings (at 0700 GMT)

1 Club Med, 11,317.1 miles to the finish
2 Innovation Explorer, +643.8 miles
3 Team Adventure, +4,383.0 miles
4 Warta-Polpharma, +4,964.5 miles
5 Team Legato, +6,263.4 miles

First published on QuokkaSailing.com, republished with permission.

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