The Race - 1030 - 17/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Club Med wins the battle of the South Atlantic High

Wednesday January 17th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The image tells the whole story - Grant Dalton's Club Med (light blue), and Cam Lewis and the Team Adventure (orange) have finally broken clear of the South Atlantic High and are into the westerly breeze of the Southern Ocean.

But Loick Peyron and Innovation Explorer (green) are paying a huge price for getting west rather than south before they entered the Doldrums. They've kept that westerly leverage ever since, but it meant they were always further north than the two sisterships. And in the end it was being south that counted.

Fleet at 0630, 17/1/01

As Dalts put it yesterday, "This is the break I wanted, we've played it well to get this chance and we are very satisfied with the result. It all started a couple of days ago when he (Team Adventure) turned to the east before we did. I wanted the south like nothing I've ever wanted before. We crossed over his path and took up position to the south of him, and that is when our situation became the dominant one."

Club Med's boat speed in the light air of the high pressure hasn't hurt them either, "We have had a lot of Code Zero weather in the last few days. I don't think we are slow with this sail, we are definitely competitive in the lighter stuff with it. We can go upwind and downwind with it in the light. It goes through all conditions except the lumpy stuff." reckoned Dalton yesterday afternoon. But even then they weren't out of the woods, "It's still quite light here and we are desperately struggling to catch the train that is the back of a depression several hundred miles ahead. It hasn't pulled out yet but if we get it we are off."

The speeds started to build - in fits and starts - yesterday afternoon. And it was clear that Club Med's position to the south got her moving first. Her lead over Team Adventure yesterday morning was just under a hundred miles, by the evening it was a lot closer to two hundred and it was a done deal. "It's ok now, we've caught the right train and we're entering the great Southern Ocean." said Franck Proffit from Club Med.

Lewis was philosophical, ""Grant Dalton did a good job of working his boat through a complex area of light wind," Lewis conceded yesterday. "Now we have to sail smart and catch him. We are 17 days into The Race and have covered one quarter of the distance. There's a long way to go." And overnight Lewis and his crew finally wriggled free. By 0700 this morning their speed matched Club Med's - in the mid-20s - and the gap was back down to 163 nm.

But not before Team Adventure made the most of the extra time in the light air. Their preparations for the south continued as they had to replace a chafed main halyard strop - which meant lowering the mainsail. And then rehoisting it. Lewis described, "three cross-linked coffee grinders, with two men per winch, plus big Fred Carrere, from Ithaca, NY, with a handle in the top of the drum pulled the main up in record time. We rotated positions at the grinders. Everyone of our 14 crew helped and in less than 17 minutes the job was done. Reminiscent of a F1 pit stop." Except they only take about eight seconds.

continued on page two

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