The Race - 0830 - 1/2/02

Club Med back at speed, story by Sean McNeill, for Quokka Sports

Thursday February 1st 2001, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
Sailing in more stable weather conditions, Grant Dalton and the crew on Club Med complete their first month at sea with an eye on Cook Strait.

On December 31st the adventure known as The Race began. By Day 31, leader Club Med was blazing toward Cook Strait at speeds of 23 knots. In between, The Race has provided daily drama and action to captivate followers around the world.

A month ago, 23,000-plus miles laid before the competitors. At 1900 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on the 31st January, just under 12,000 miles to the finish remained for Club Med. Its average speed, near 19 knots, is faster than the 17 knots estimated on paper for a 60-day circumnavigation.

A month ago, questions were abundant as to the reliability of these boats in the open ocean. Although there have been some instances of damage, most notably aboard Team Adventure, race director Denis Horeau reported few instances of concern.

"The breakage situation is satisfactory after one month into the race and more than 12,000 sea miles, even more so when you consider that some of the boats were launched just a month before the start," he said.

A month ago, many believed these boats were speedsters, but no one quite knew how much they could be pushed. Since the start, the three new Gilles Ollier-designed 110-foot sisterships, running 1-2-3 in the race, have all logged 600-mile days, with Team Adventure the pole sitter after logging 617.44 miles on Jan. 17.

What's more, the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin record was broken twice, within two days of each other. First, Club Med covered the 4,546-mile span of the South Indian Ocean in seven days and 18 hours. Then, Innovation Explorer covered it in four hours less, although it averaged a more southerly (and shorter) route. The record of eight days and 23 hours was held by the 92-foot trimaran Sport-Elec.

Club Med, with the most thorough preparation time, has been in or near the lead of The Race since the start. At 1100 GMT yesterday, the Grant Dalton-skippered machine was just 775 miles from the Cook Strait passage between the North and South islands of New Zealand. Dalton and crew had the throttle opened, hoping to stay ahead of an anticyclone that could slow their progress.

"We are reaching flat out here with the staysail and two reefs in the main. The wind is further forward now, on the beam. It is high speed all the way into the Tasman from here," Dalton said.

"It's good to be moving at full potential again today. The last three days have really been frustrating in that we have only been concentrating on keeping the boat safe rather than taking big speed risks. The seas and the angles just haven't allowed it until now," said the Kiwi.

Club Med led Innovation Explorer by 762 miles at 1900 GMT last night. Showing off its efficiency, Club Med's VMG (speed directly toward or away from the wind direction) was equal to its one-hour-average boatspeed: 22.1 knots.

In typical Dalton doom and gloom, he predicted rough times ahead. "The weather will probably slow us right down on the final approach to the Straits with a northerly wind. And this in turn may well shut right down when we get there. It is still a ways off and a lot can change, but normally you would expect to roar downwind through the Straits from west to east."

In the meantime, the competitors deserve a round of applause for a wonderful month of racing.

Positions at 0230 GMT, 1st February, 2001

1 Club Med,  11,732.7 miles to the finish
2 Innovation Explorer,  +815.6 miles
3 Team Adventure,  +4,305.3 miles
4 Warta-Polpharma,  +4,904.4 miles
5 Team Legato,  +6,268.6 miles

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