The Race - 0630 - 28/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Club Med hits the jackpot

Wednesday February 28th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Grant Dalton and Club Med (light blue) are back on the dream ticket, doing 500 mile days and tearing toward the finish, courtesy of their own private low pressure. They hooked into this system yesterday, and the forecast says it could take them all the way across the line.

Leaders at 0300, 28/2/01

The weather image from early this morning (above) shows Club Med smoking down the line towards the Straits of Gibraltar, just visible in the top right of the chart. And boy is that elastic stretching, the gap to Loick Peyron's Innovation Explorer (green) was back up to just over a thousand miles this morning, and this time it's going to stretch until it breaks.

Weather at 1430, 1/3/01The forecast for Thursday afternoon (right) shows the low pressure still moving east and the race track unfolding as one seriously fast downwind sail for Club Med.

The breeze funnels through the Straits of Gibraltar, and the strong westerly will blast them into the Med. "We should get a westerly flow as soon as we're in the Mediterranean," said Nicolas Pichelin from onboard the big blue cat, "which means we'll be running downwind and we'll do it in about two or three gybes. Me, I'm betting on Sunday morning 1030 but we're still hoping for a Saturday afternoon finish in Marseilles!"

With only 1500 miles to sail and plenty of breeze to the finish, the concerns about food are now over, Pichelin continued, "We took 69 days of food, now that we know we should be finishing on Saturday evening or Sunday morning at the latest, we are allowed double rations at meal times."

It's a very different scenario for Innovation Explorer, "Indeed, the situation is not going exactly as planned," admitted Julien Cressant during today's chat session with the Race Office. "The low should have been further south normally, but we find ourselves in the ridge with ten to 12 knots of wind."

And looking at the forecast, the ridge isn't going to be pushed south by the low either, they are going to have to sail through it, rather than have the door opened for them by a chivalrous weather god. "Of course it's a little disappointing and it's having an effect on the mood of the people on board," continued Cressant, "It's not very good for the morale to see that we managed to come back on Club Med and now she's getting away again."

And while the Club Med crew can happily stuff themselves, ahead of an even bigger feed in Marseille, aboard Innovation Explorer, Xavier Dagault ­ the ship's cook ­ and Loïck Peyron decided to take 63 days of food. This coming Monday, March 5th will be the 63rd day of the race. They need to finish Monday, or, as that redoubtable mariner Skip Novak added, "Otherwise it won't be long before we start trailing a line!"

continued on page two

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