What a difference a day makes. In the space of just a few hours light air running has been replaced with heavy air reaching and the fleet is on its way to Cape Horn. The arrival of a cold front marked an almost instantaneous ninety degree wind shift accompanied by more breeze.
"It's pretty exiting onboard right now. The last ten hours the wind has slowly been building, knot by knot, as we are fast approaching a big mother of cold fronts flying in from the west," reported Knut Frostad from onboard djuice. "Right now we have 30 knots, the big spinnaker and we are quietly surfing down small waves in the darkness."
The increase in breeze has done nothing to diminish the tactical battles and individual boat on boat contests. "In the last two hours we survived two heavy weather gybes against the fleet," reported mark Rudiger from a cold and dark southern Ocean. "The front we expected came in with 30 plus knots and a little more right than anticipated causing all of us to gybe at different stages. I was just marking SEB on the radar when I noticed a new target come into range passing a couple miles behind. We were already thinking of gybing so we went ahead. Just as we were getting ready, SEB appeared out of the fog on port and crossed just ahead. After the gybe, and a lot of restacking, the sked came in and it was illbruck that had crossed our stern."
Indeed six out of the eight boats are still tightly grouped. Spread across a line some 30 miles wide, SEB and Assa Abloy are the most northerly of the group, with News Corp and Tyco furthest south. All are experiencing blast reaching conditions with freezing arctic water washing down the deck.
One boat that has decided not to ply tactical games is Amer Sport One. Grant Dalton, is instead pursuing a strategic option well to the north. Gybing some hours before the rest of the fleet, Amer Sport One is now some fifty miles to the northeast of the bulk of the fleet. While Dalton appeared to be enjoying freer winds than those to the south for a while the question is, how long will it last? Ross Field has analyses the situation thus. " Amer Sports One has taken a flyer north, which we believe won't work - time will tell. We're expecting more southerlies for the next 12 hours and then the breeze will come aft to the southwest."
Amer Sport One's performance is clearly weighing on the minds of the other skippers too. "They seem to have a slight advantage in the light air reaching and running," says John Kostecki from illbruck. "I think Dalts and his crew are finally starting to find the right gears for the Frers boat.
Kostecki goes on to point out that positioning on the course is as important as raw speed. "It is where you place the boat compared to the fleet and position yourself for the weather systems. So, I do not think any boat in this fleet has the excuse to lose."
Pages two, three and four... an insight from the crews.