The Race - 1030 - 22/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Dalton hits the Doldrums

Thursday February 22nd 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The gap between Grant Dalton's Club Med (light blue) and Loick Peyron's chasing Innovation Explorer (green) hasn't so much done the accordion thing as resembled a yo-yo these past 24 hours. Up to more than 1200 miles at one point, as Dalts blasted ahead in the trade winds while Peyron struggled to free his boat from the South Atlantic High. Now the boot is firmly on the other foot as Dalton has hit the Doldrums and Peyron is in the trades - and the lead at 0700 this morning was back down to just under a thousand miles with Club Med still struggling at ten knots.

Club Med had been working hard through yesterday to build the lead, "The last few hours in the south-east trades has seen our weather router [Roger Badham] steering us through the clouds. [Using satellite weather pictures] He sets us up on a course a few miles ahead of the obstacle and has had us sail a route around the worst of the big build-ups. This leaves us in the wind a bit longer and allows us to exploit every last ounce of wind available in the most efficient manner possible. This job can only be done from the shore, we couldn't do it on the boat." As we mentioned yesterday, Dalts has the enthusiasm of the newly converted to off-the-boat weather routing

Leaders at 0700, 22/2/01

Dalton was also happy about their line-up into the Doldrums, "Statistically we think we are in the best spot. We are going to cross into the Doldrums at around 30 West. We think the Doldrums are about three-quarters of a degree wide at this point which means about 45 miles across. It could be really quick for us, but it could take all day, we'll just have to be patient." And so it has proved.

At that stage, Innovation Explorer was still all the way out to the east, hanging onto their leverage and facing the dilemma of whether or not to take the big gamble and short-cut the distance trying to cross a wider band of Doldrums. This morning their choice is clear, the green track of Innovation Explorer is pointing directly at Club Med - they are playing it safe, and going for the low risk, low gain option of crossing in the traditionally narrower section to the west.

It might have been the fate of Catherine Chabaud in the Vendee Globe that edged the decision towards playing it tight. Certainly it has been praying on Dalts mind, "The biggest worry for us is still the sort of thing that happened to Catherine Chabaud in the Vendée Globe. Losing your mast 500 miles from the finish is just once again proof of how fickle this sport is. Imagine coming non-stop all the way round the world and losing your rig within spitting distance of the finish line..."
The same thinking was evident as Jérôme Teigné reported from Innovation Explorer, "Club Med won't always be so lucky, even if they're sailing really well and they never put a foot wrong, we're a little frustrated about not having the same success. There's still some way to go and anything can happen. We can well remember when we were delivering the boat in December from La Trinité to Antibes. We were 'parked' for two days without wind in the Mediterranean." he added, "We need to be right there to take advantage in any drop in her pace."

And chinks are appearing in Club Med's aura of invincibility. The food, or lack of it, that was worrying Dalton a couple of days ago is increasingly an issue. "It's my fault; I underestimated the consumption of the crew." said Dalton, he went on, "We have enough to ensure all meals as far as Marseilles. However we are short of all the little energetic "extras" like dried fruit and protein cereal bars that the boys adore after a sudden dose of effort. We have noticed significant weight loss in some of us, around eight to ten kilos!" That's an awful lot of weight to lose in less than two months, from a crew that weren't exactly overweight in the first place. It will be draining their energy and concentration through this last section. It makes mistakes a little more possible ...
continued on page two

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