The Race - 0930 - 4/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as two more pitstop and the weather keeps the rest guessing

Thursday January 4th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Weather at 0030, 4/1/01

Looking at the weather overnight (above) it does seem like they are getting into some better pressure offshore, "It's better to head west in search of wind," was also the analysis of Gilles Chiori of Météo Consult in yesterday evening's race office report. Team Adventure and Club Med are sailing straight into the hole of high pressure between Morocco and the Canaries. And as with a skiff or high performance asymmetric dinghy, having more breeze is often more important than having the right wind shift. The question is where this breeze is taking Loick Peyron and his crew.

Although the Virtual Spectator doesn't show it too well at the moment, the US weather charts have a low pressure system dropping down from the north, centred off the Bay of Biscay and pushing a line of wind - running more or less east to west across the Atlantic - down towards the fleet on Friday. That breeze is south-westerly, until a cold front sweeps through and switches it into the north-west. Longer term it looks like the Azores High will then re-establish itself offshore to the west of the Canaries, and by the middle of the weekend the best breeze should be around the islands and towards the African coast.

So who's right - Team Adventure and Club Med or Innovation Explorer? The answer will probably lie in the timing, the speed with which that new breeze will sweep down the Atlantic. Innovation Explorer will certainly get the breeze first as they are to the north (as will PlayStation, who's penalty time is over Thursday afternoon). If they can match the speed of the southerly advance of the wind, then they will carry it down to the others, if they can't then the leaders will move away again. That's a simplification, and a lot of neuron and computer processing power will be whirring away on the detail once the teams see the position reports this morning.

But it does look like the weather is playing into Steve Fossett's hand. Their penalty ends at 1730 on Thursday afternoon, and they have every chance of getting back into it. They will get the new breeze ahead of everyone except Innovation Explorer and although they won't get back all they have lost, they will certainly recover a lot of it. "They are going to wait for the front to pass through and quietly leave with some wind." commented Loïck Peyron.

The replacement sails have already arrived and they will be ready to go on time. The old sails that they will put back on the boat are ordinary Spectra, while the original - now unwanted - race sails are Cuben Fibre, which is also fundamentally Spectra, but manufactured under high pressure and temperature. This cloth is reported to have saved them 300 kg in the weight of the mainsail - as yet there is no report on whether it is the construction or the cloth that was at fault.
The latest on Team Legato is that she is expected to arrive in Gibraltar some time on Thursday afternoon. The headboard car on the mainsail is the part that's failed and a new one is being flown down there from the supplier in Denmark. Although it will arrive at about the same time as Team Legato, Tony Bullimore and his crew will be sin binned for 48 hours, the compulsory stop-over incurred for the first assisted stop.

Click for new window with link to Virtual SpectatorMap images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to The Race site for a free download of the software.


Standings (at 0030 GMT 3/1/00)

1 Team Adventure
2 Club Med +20
3 Innovation Explorer +100 nm
4 PlayStation +281 nm
5 Polpharma Warta +319 nm
6 Team Legato +434 nm

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