The Race - 1030 - 3/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as the leaders break into open water

Wednesday January 3rd 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The big news of the last 24 hours is PlayStation's pitstop for new sails in Gibraltar, which will cost her 48 hours mandatory time penalty under the rules - and this morning, as you can see from the position chart below, PlayStation (red) is still in Gibraltar and already 159 nm behind Team Adventure. But she's still ahead of the trailing Polpharma Warta (yellow), which is believed to have fixed its battens and is now 296 nm off the lead, with late-starting Team Legato (purple) bringing up the rear, 387 nm off the pace.

Fleet at 0900, 3/1/01

Thing were going more smoothly for the three Ollier cats, in particular Cam Lewis and Team Adventure (orange) which led through the Straits of Gibraltar around midday on the 2nd January. They were followed by Grant Dalton's Club Med (light blue) with the wind dropping to make life harder for those behind, particularly Innovation Explorer (green). During a radio report with the race office, Loïck Peyron, co-skipper of Innovation Explorer, commented, "You never really know quite what you're going to end up with here. Yesterday, winds were forecast and today there's no wind at all!"

Peyron also discovered why he had been struggling for pace against his sister-ships - the ballast tanks were full, "We must have had a full ballast since the start. It must have happened when the shore crew loaded the boat before we left. Someone must have pushed the handle down without meaning to and the ballast filled up. Sailing with one tonne of water is not the best thing in the world for boat speed!"

Weather at 0900, 3/1/01

Lewis is leading Team Ollier down the African coast, conditions contriving to keep these boats on the wind, "Now we are out in the Atlantic, shredding the big blue planet." Lewis commented in typically effusive style in an email to his shore team, "We have been hard on the wind since Barcelona and continue south-west now, off the Moroccan coast. We are still sailing to windward, trying to get west, out towards the Canaries and into the tradewinds that will propel us to the Equator. Solent and full main are up now and we proceed at 16 or so knots on starboard tack."

The winds ahead of them are looking pretty sketchy, and the navigators face a much more difficult problem than the Vendee Globe skippers who blasted down this coastline just a couple of months ago. Although they still have reasonable south-westerly breeze from the bottom of the low pressure centred west of Ireland, there is a weak high pressure forming to the west of and over the Canaries, which is just visible in the weather image above.

The winds will be circulating clockwise around this high, and so the cats will find downwind conditions on its eastern side, close to the African coastline. But that would force them to deal with the unpredictable set of land effects produced by the coast and the Canaries themselves. The alternative is to go offshore and face headwinds - caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

But that's what weather routeurs are for - unlike the Vendee Globe, these boats are allowed off the boat assistance with navigation and strategy. And the 'shore team' the fleet have assembled includes pretty much everyone who's anyone. Roger Badham, or Clouds, was met consultant to Whitbread winner EF Language, and is now working with Club Med.

Clouds has also joined Team New Zealand for the 2003 Cup, and PlayStation's weather man Bob Rice, is famous for helping them to their last two America's Cup wins. Innovation Explorer have the top French weather routeur Pierre Lasnier - and last but certainly not least is madforsailing's own custom forecast provider - Ken Campbell and Commanders' Weather - working with Team Adventure.

This is the A Team of weather routing, and when you combine it with the talent on the boats - Jean-Yves Bernot on Team Adventure, Stan Honey on PlayStation, Roger Nilson on Innovation Explorer and Mike Quilter on Club Med - you can be confident that if anyone can wriggle their way through the minefield ahead, it's these boys. That they have the biggest, baddest boats on the planet (Cam's style is rubbing off on me) to do it in, can only make it more entertaining.
Click for new window with link to Virtual SpectatorMap images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to The Race site for a free download of the software.

Standings (at 0900 GMT 3/1/00)

1 Team Adventure
2 Club Med +18
3 Innovation Explorer +45 nm
4 PlayStation +159 nm
5 Polpharma Warta +296 nm
6 Team Legato +387 nm

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