The Race - 1030 - 19/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as normal service resumes for Club Med

Monday February 19th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
As the man said, don't you love it when a plan comes together? Club Med's track (light blue) shows that it all happened over the weekend exactly as Dalton has been predicting for the last few days - sail north-east on port tack in the northerly, gradually get headed as you approach the top of the South Atlantic High, flip over onto starboard and sail north into the trades. Text-book stuff from three of the best in the business, skipper Grant Dalton, navigator Mike Quilter and weather routeur Roger 'Clouds' Badham.

Leaders at 0700, 19/2/01

Last night Dalton described the moment when they finally broke clear, "It was a slow day yesterday. We spent the day trying to pick up the south-east trades. We had to tack several times with the shifty wind around the clouds to find what we wanted. Then suddenly the last big cloud cleared us and it was as if someone had flicked a switch, 15-18 knots of wind, stable and steady. That was about 12 hours ago."

"We are now sailing on starboard tack with one reef in the main and the Solent (headsail) set. The wave pattern and the wind will slowly clock aft as we head north and this will only allow us to sail faster and faster." The wind shift from easterly to south-easterly that Dalton's predicting can be seen at the top of the image, as they sail further north and away from the South Atlantic High.

Meanwhile, the chasing Loick Peyron and Innovation Explorer (green) are back to almost a thousand miles behind and have it all to do. Dalton reported, "We are pulling 13 miles an hour on Innovation Explorer at the moment. He is very far to the east down there. I don't know how it will pan out for them, but I know that we are at 23 degrees North and he is at 39 degrees North. That is over 900 miles in latitude. He has the mess of the South Atlantic High to deal with and we have just to keep sailing the way we are going now. It's all good news for us. We are being paid back with interest what we invested over the last four or five days."

Weather at 1900 20/2/01Innovation Explorer can be seen struggling into the South Atlantic High on the above chart, but the situation is still changing quickly. Tuesday evening's forecast (right) shows the main high receding east, and being chased by another growing bubble of high pressure from the west.

The Innovation Explorer team must thread their way through this moving needle to get north into the same easterly's that Dalton has now reached. Peyron and co have taken an impressively radical strategy to try to get through this section, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

But even if they don't get trapped by the high, they've not made any gains since Cape Horn. Club Med still have to lose it from here, as Dalton and his crew are well aware. "When in the lead a Formula One car never puts in its fastest lap just before the chequered flag, that is the time to burn up the buffer and keep it all together."

Dalton went on, "I don't care if we win this race with a five-mile lead or a 500-mile lead, all I'm interested in is being first home." And Ed Danby added, "preserve the lead and preserve the boat."
continued on page two

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