The Race - 0930 - 8/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Club Med stretches out her lead

Thursday February 8th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The Southern Ocean weather keeps looking after Grant Dalton and Club Med (light blue) at the moment, the leader has continued to pile miles on his lead, and at 0300 GMT this morning was almost 800 miles ahead of Loick Peyron and Innovation Explorer (green)

Leaders at 0230, 8/2/01

The big blue cat has remained in almost exactly the same place relative to the high pressure ridge for the last two days, as the system moves east at the same speed as the boat. It's providing solid breeze and flat water, which the crew reckoned was perfect record breaking weather.

Dalton said yesterday, "Finally the ridge of high pressure that is extending way down into the Southern Ocean is moving forwards faster than us. So we can move fast and stay south and keep the pressure on. Innovation Explorer seems to have slowed down a bit and are staying further north or maybe they are just unable to get south.

"We look good right now because we are able to sail a much shorter distance this far south and so our miles to go to the finish are dropping off fast. Sailing these boats down here is like sailing in slow motion. The extra speed these boats sail at means that we can just move around at the same speed as the weather systems. It is quite incredible compared to monohull sailing. It really changes everything."

Innovation Explorer remains trapped above the low in rough conditions that are seriously limiting their speed, "We're trying to gradually wend our way southwards in the search for a good westerly flow of wind, located just after the ridge of high pressure" Jean-Philippe Saliou on Innovation Explorer reckoned, "but the sailing conditions of the last few hours haven't really enabled us to progress properly and we're being thrown about in a fairly strong seaway".

Weather at 0915, 9/2/01But it looks like change ahead - there is another big low pressure system almost completely stationary, situated west of Cape Horn, and it looks like this will force Dalton's high pressure ridge north by the end of the week (right). That will leave Club Med facing a complex weather pattern to battle through to round the landmark.

Dalton commented yesterday, "I'm not sure how we are going to approach the Horn. This trough is going to take us all the way I think, I hope, but really it is so hard to be sure about exactly what is happening. The depression stuck at the Horn is stationary. We'll have to see. I think we'll be there by Saturday this week."

Peyron can hope for no worse than more of the same, and perhaps an improvement in conditions as the centre of the low slips south, the sea state might flatten in the more consistent westerly flow of wind.

In the meantime, Dalton and his crew continue to deal with all the usual harsh realities of Southern Ocean life, "It is really cold. The sea temperature is just four degrees ... Last night we thought we should turn on the radar to start an iceberg watch. Straight away we saw one at a range of eight miles on the screen. At seven miles we could visually see it and minutes later it was beside us.

"It was probably the tallest iceberg I have ever seen, nearly 100 metres high and half a mile long. It was young, the issue of a violent birth, all jagged, not rounded and smooth from the sea smashing against it like you normally see."

continued on page two

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