The Race - 0830 - 11/1/0

Club Med stays in command - story by Sean McNeill for

Thursday January 11th 2001, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
Grant Dalton's multinational crew fought hard to keep the lead in The Race through the Doldrums. But now that they're beating in the South Atlantic, the skipper is worried about being overtaken. With the three Gilles Ollier-designed sisterships into the Southern Hemisphere, one thing remains constant in The Race: Club Med's command over its pursuers. But that command could expire soon, especially if Club Med has to beat southward past the St. Helene high-pressure system.

Grant Dalton's 110-footer with crew representing five countries has maintained its grasp on the pole position, despite a furious chase from Cam Lewis' Team Adventure. Last weekend Team Adventure trailed by more than 200 miles. After Team Adventure whittled that deficit to 18 miles yesterday morning, Club Med had steadily shadowed its main rival and had stretched out to a 37.5-mile lead by the evening, according to the 2300 GMT position report.

Dalton, however, was less than ecstatic about the proceedings. "Not a great day at the office yesterday," commented the skipper. "We got hit harder and for longer by the light winds in the Doldrums. We went in before Team Adventure and the Doldrums moved south with us. We both exited at the same time. I've seen it happen before. Not much we can do about it."

The Doldrums have also helped the third Ollier design, Loïck Peyron's Innovation Explorer (pictured), creep back into the picture. Forty-eight hours ago Innovation Explorer was 330 miles in arrears. Its deficit this evening is 193.3 miles, reduced mainly by navigator Skip Novak and router Pierre Lasnier's decision to head west toward a narrower band of the Doldrums. While the decision increased their distance sailed, they spent less time drifting.

Peyron, like Dalton, feels they could've managed the Doldrums better. "The westerly option wasn't bad," said Peyron. "We were parked a little last night. The sea was very confused and the squalls violent. It wasn't planned. A pity; we could have caught up a bit. We haven't gained anything, but we haven't lost anything either. Our set of sails is not as complete as our little comrades'. We have to play a different game and try things."

Farther back, Steve Fossett's PlayStation is also gaining ground. The biggest, heaviest boat in the fleet trailed Club Med by 407.4 miles, according to the position report. Twenty-four hours ago that deficit was 506.5 miles. PlayStation was able to gain ground because the leaders were crossing the Doldrums, which the mighty cat should begin to contend with tomorrow.

The three French-built boats, displacing around 20 tons, seem at their best in light to moderate conditions. Comparatively, PlayStation displaces slightly more. "It's interesting that the boatspeeds among the three Ollier cats is relatively close. It's harder to draw conclusions with PlayStation because they're in different weather," said Pete Melvin, who co-designed PlayStation with Gino Morelli.

"Their philosophy was to reduce wetted surface area in light air, and get full sailing length when pressed up on one hull," Melvin continued. "The shape we chose is more evolutionary from the other cats we designed. The shape that we designed has low wetted surface at low speeds where transom is clear and knuckle is just immersed. The Ollier cats are designed with the knuckle out of water."

Club Med and Team Adventure are firmly in the south-east trades and racing to get to the western edge of the St. Helene (South Atlantic) high-pressure system. Dalton believes that Team Adventure is better suited for the upwind conditions. "The problem for us now is that they (Team Adventure) are faster than us upwind, and over the next few days we are going to see them move out ahead of us," Dalton said. "I think they are about one knot faster than us at the moment. This is due to a lighter boat and lighter sails."

Standings at 2300 GMT 10/1/01

1. Club Med
2. Team Adventure +37.5 nm
3. Innovation Explorer +193.3 nm
4. PlayStation +407.4 nm
5. Warta Polpharma +735.5 nm
6. Team Legato +1,798.3 nm

First published on, republished with permission.

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