The Race - 1030 - 18/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Cam steps on the gas

Thursday January 18th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
It's begun, the serious stuff, the world's gnarliest sailboats are in the Southern Ocean. Aboard Club Med (light blue), skipper Grant Dalton's been there plenty of times before - but not in a boat like this. Dalton said last night, "We are in it. This is the south. We have 30 knots but unfortunately we can't use it all. The weather is horrible, very, very wet and trying conditions. It is ugly sailing. This is a bad part of the world. Night-time is weird. We were sailing sometimes at 30 knots in the pitch black. Often can't see a damn thing, we have to be really careful."

Fleet at 0700, 18/1/01

We've also got our first clue as to how these boats will move relative to the weather systems - quickly. It was because they ran into the back of the cold front associated with that low pressure system - the 'train' Club Med caught yesterday - that Club Med have slowed and Team Adventure (orange) have pulled the miles back on them. Cam Lewis and his team were just 109 miles behind at 0700 GMT this morning.
Dalton reckoned yesterday, "We are embedded in the back of this low pressure system. We have caught it up and are now knocking on the back of the cold front which is not ideal. The sea is very confused and we are not able to really open her up in spite of 30 knots of wind. We just don't have the waves to get the good rides. The Golden Position is not so golden. We've lost 30 miles overnight and this situation may continue as Team Adventure is able to enjoy a better and more established wave pattern and a freer wind angle further behind us."

Weather at 0700, 18/1/01

The front is visible on the bigger weather picture (above) as the 'wave' in the isobar lines. It looks like Club Med has turned south to avoid running into the back of it - a bit like a surfing dinghy heading up or down to avoid slamming into the wave in front of them.

This is a new game, a Whitbread boat or Volvo Ocean 60 in the Southern Ocean is looking for forty knots of breeze to hit max speed and that means burying the boat right in the heart of the depression. And hanging on as long as they can, while the system moves east away from them. But as Cam Lewis said yesterday, "Smooth seas and 25 knots of wind is all we need for maximum pace."

When they find those conditions it seems they can keep pace with at least some of the Southern Ocean's low pressure systems. And then instead of worrying about getting overtaken by the low, the problem is not getting slowed by the cold fronts embedded in the system. Maxi cat Southern Ocean sailing could be a much harder navigational problem than sticking a V.O. 60 in the heart of the storm and hanging on for dear life. The Club Med team; Dalton, Quilter and Roger Badham, have chosen to turn south towards the depression forming beneath them, it will be interesting to see when, or if, they gybe today.

continued on page two

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