The Race - 0930 - 14/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Club Med hit the high

Wednesday February 14th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Club Med's (light blue) regal progress up the South Atlantic has finally been slowed, as skipper Grant Dalton said yesterday when their lead over Innovation Explorer (green) finally went into four figures, "A thousand mile lead we'll take it all. A thousand miles is a nice buffer, we'll need a lot for what is coming up. We are going to be slowed in the South Atlantic High."

Leaders at 0700, 14/2/01

It's started this morning, with Club Med down to ten knots and their lead cut by 50 miles in the space of four hours. We can see from the image (above) that Dalton is already right in the centre of the western arm of the South Atlantic High, and from this forecast at least, close to breaking through into the easterly breeze on the northern side. In one report to The Race Office Dalton reckoned they would be slowed for as little as 12 hours.

Conditions are extremely dynamic in this part of the world at the moment, with the high pressure mobile and unsettled. Dalton sent this description yesterday, "We had a rough night last night. We dropped down through the wardrobe all the way down to three reefs and a storm jib. We have now gone back up the other way and now we're flying every stitch we have, big spinnaker and full main. Last night it was impossible to sleep. The boat was leaping around in all directions. I had to lie spread-eagled face down in my bunk to rest. But even then I was being thrown around."

Weather at 0700, 15/2/01

The situation remains unstable, the high pressure is going to recede east very quickly, to be replaced by a small low pressure rolling off South America, right in front of Club Med. Their positioning relative to this system will be important, if they can get to the west of it, into the southerlies, they could get the slingshot to the north that they need to break through into the trade winds.

And they need to do it fast, because by the weekend another high pressure system will be rolling off South America and moving eastwards to replace the receding South Atlantic High. This is exactly the pattern that we saw in the Vendee Globe, as Ellen MacArthur chased Michel Desjoyeaux through these waters.

It's going to be a road block, and while Dalton has a shot at getting through ahead of it, the high will move right across in front of Innovation Explorer. After their epic Cape Horn rounding, these guys need Club Med to be trapped, to get them back in the race.

Innovation Explorer reported that their slow spell yesterday was as they parked in the wind shadow of the Estados Islands and the ridge of high pressure, which followed the low pressure around the Horn. But they face a much bigger parking lot now.

At least they can look forward to some improvement in the temperature, Dalton reported, "There isn't a gradual warming up as you sail north. It is a sudden transition. I've just been on deck doing some sail handling and I got really hot. Now I'm down below with all my layers on and it is still really hot. Apart from the few hours through the Cook Straits this is the first time we have started to feel warm for a very long time".

continued on page two

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