The Race - 0630 - 2/3/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Dalts enters the Med and the home straight

Friday March 2nd 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Grant Dalton and Club Med (light blue) returned to the Mediterranean at about 2200 GMT last night (below), blasting through the Straits of Gibraltar on the same low pressure system that has carried them back out to another 1200 mile lead over the chasing Innovation Explorer (green). A Saturday arrival is on the cards again.

Leaders at 2300, 1/3/01

The low pressure system has deepened and continued its passage east towards Spain, Club Med flew up the coast of Morocco in a south-west wind at well over 20 knots. Jacques Caraès had commented from on board, "The sea has got rougher and the weather models are announcing a major gale for the 'Pillars of Hercules' (Gibraltar). We'll be careful, but downwind isn't a problem for us."

Caraès continued, "We've been slipping along perfectly since yesterday, even if the sea is a little rough. All night we ran downwind with the gennaker. We're continuing to be careful. We go round the boat several times a day to check the rigging. Passing Gibraltar at night will be tricky with a wind forecast as being very strong. We don't feel we've achieved a feat. We're just professionals who have done their job."

And the ever circumspect Dalton still wouldn't think about the finish yesterday, "Our only worry is getting through the Straits", he asserted, "It'll be time to think about Marseilles once we're in the Mediterranean."

Weather at 1200, 3/3/01That time is now on them (right), with a little over 600 miles to go, the forecast for Friday and Saturday is good. A second low pressure is bumping its way east behind the first, and that should strengthen the wind gradient in the Med.

But the speed for Dalton has dropped quickly since they left the Atlantic - it was down to 15 knots at 2300, just as they cleared the Straits, and down to six knots by 0300 this morning. It could be they've just dropped into light air near the coast - let's hope it's nothing more serious.

Yesterday we were reporting a false dawn for Dalton, as Club Med slipped back into the high pressure ridge after apparently tagging onto the low. Today, we can report the same misadventure for Innovation Explorer. Elena Caputo's announcement that they were moving with the low was premature, and they had another slow night with some time on port gybe going north-west to get back into the breeze.

It was only yesterday afternoon that Elena could report again, "We have had wind since this morning and we're going fast along an almost direct route. We think we can keep this wind as far as Gibraltar. The passage into the Mediterranean and the sail up to Marseilles will be more complicated for us than for Club Med."

To add insult to injury, they once again blew up a sail, this time the tack on the big gennaker gave way. It was a relatively straight-forward repair taking only 20 minutes - but every time something like this occurs the crew must wonder what might have happened if only they had had the money for a little better sail inventory.

continued on page two

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