The Race - 0730 - 30/01/01

Strong winds hit fleet - story by Sean McNeill for QuokkaSailing.com

Tuesday January 30th 2001, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
With strong winds from the south-west to north-west pushing them along, competitors in The Race are contending with conditions that make top speeds risky as the globe-girdling race enters its fourth week.

Grant Dalton’s colourful Club Med maintained its 800-mile advantage over Loïck Peyron’s Innovation Explorer. At 1800 GMT last night Club Med was at 50º05’S and 135º49’E, positioned south/southwest of Tasmania.

Club Med’s dive to 50S was precipitated by the development of a high pressure under Australia. Next on the horizon for the 24-hour world speed record holder: a mandatory passage through Cook Strait.

"I think we should reach the Cook Straits by next Friday," said co-skipper Franck Proffit. "For the time being we are still sailing in 25 to 30 knots of wind with two reefs in the main and our little spinny. We are going down south at the moment to skirt a system of high pressure and not have to go into it straight away. I think that tomorrow we'll jibe and head straight along the direct route for New Zealand."

Although Innovation Explorer trailed Club Med by 800 miles, that deficit was less than the 861 miles it faced this morning in a windless patch. "Now we're off again even better than before and we've 30 to 35 knots of wind from the Nor’west," said Peyron. "But we’re not in excellent conditions, because the sea is shaking us up rather a lot, and even if we had more wind, it wouldn't mean we could go any faster. We’re on an easterly heading, but on the other hand Club Med is on starboard tack and can't point a direct route."

For the last ten days Dalton and Peyron have engaged in a war of words over the passage of Cook Strait. Reading between Dalton’s comments last week about distances between the two rivals led one to believe that Dalton was planning a stopover in Wellington, which would require him to stay in port for 48 hours.

"The distances don't mean anything. The slightest tech stop can immobilize us for at least 48 hours, which means that in 36 hours, Loïck could take the lead from us," Dalton said last Tuesday.

Today, speculation arose that Peyron would stop in Wellington, perhaps to add a gennaker, which is missing from his sail inventory. Strapped for cash at the beginning of The Race, Peyron couldn’t afford to build a 350-square-meter reacher, which is ideal for the trade winds in the Atlantic Ocean. They tried to buy a used reacher from Club Med in the week leading up to the start, but were rebuffed by Dalton.

"Nothing's changed. It's still in the hands of destiny!" Peyron said today.

Back in the fleet, Cam Lewis’s Team Adventure broke the 600-mile barrier for 24 hours, logging 607.4 miles before throttling back.

"It's true that we were on the limits of what's reasonable," said watch captain Jacques Vincent. Just ten days ago the crew had a 'wake up call' when it ploughed into the back of a wave, damaging the boat and injuring crew members. They spent five days repairing the boat in Cape Town, South Africa, before rejoining the race last Friday. Still, they continue to push extremes.

"We have two reefs in the main and the staysail at the moment. Yesterday evening we had to rig the storm jib because we started to go over 40 knots. It wasn't very reasonable," said Vincent. "We had about 36 knots of wind, we filled the aft ballast [tanks] and the boat was holding well but at 40 knots it's not easy! We were four on watch, three on deck and one going back and forth from the cockpit to the chart table and the galley and sort of controlling everything."

Leading positions at 03:00 GMT 30/1/01

1. Club Med 12,911 miles to finish
2. Innovation Explorer +758miles
3. Team Adventure +3,814miles
4. Warta Polpharma +3,988miles
5. Team Legato +5,812miles

First published on QuokkaSailing.com, republished with permission.

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