The Race - 1800 - 24/1/01
Innovation Explorer, in the grips of a delicate situation, between calms and strong breezes, is looking for the exit. Club Med, much to the crew's joy, is blithely sliding between the highs and is tirelessly increasing her lead in terms of longitude over her pursuers. Warta-Polpharma is putting more and more easting into her route; the Poles are exultant now that the 25-knot westerly is finally filling their sails and terrifying the speedo. Located this morning at 15° longitude west, they have only just reached the point passed by Club Med on January 17th.
Bad luck for Cam Lewis and his crew, now majority French after the defection of 4 Anglo-Saxon members, who were hoping to cast off tomorrow morning at the latest. Headwinds have decided otherwise. Cam is having to be patient and is putting every second to use in preparing his fresh start. The big cat is licking her wounds. The reinforcements carried out under the supervision of Yann Penfornis along the whole fairing are reassuring.
"The boat will be leaving stronger than she was when originally built," confirmed Larry Rosenfeld. "We have multiplied the number of bulkheads and largely reinforced the fairing." The 35-knot south-easterly that is barring the entrance to the Indian Ocean to any sailing boat leaving the Cape is cooling the ardour of a rested and re-motivated crew. "If we don¹t leave until Friday morning it will be so much the better, because the polymerisation of the carbon will be that much better, and our repairs more reliable," said Cam positively.
"We are taking advantage to check everything on board. We have notably eliminated all sharp angles inside the hulls (Jeffrey Wargo injured himself when he violently crashed into a sharp object when the boat buried her bows. Editorial note), and we are protecting risky parts of the boat with foam, above doors for example." Jean-Yves Bernot is working to define the most reasonable route for bringing Team Adventure back into the race as quickly as possible.
Well-settled on port tack in a nice north-westerly flow generating around 20-knots of wind, Club Med, mistress of her destiny, is making good pace on an easterly heading, obstinately refusing to go below latitude 47° South. The reason: a very deep depression, 790 hPa, which is rising up from 53° South. Sailing with reefed main, small spinnaker and gennaker, Grant Dalton's men are taking great care to tackle the development of these lows whose centres could cause major chaos. The big blue catamaran's lead is encouraging the crew to spare the gear, by choosing wind angles and forces that best suit the boat: reaching in 25/30 knots of wind.
The situation is not so clear for Loïck Peyron, caught up by the front, who since this morning is sailing in light airs, no more than 10/15 knots from WSW, which is not very favourable for generating long surf. Unlike Club Med, Innovation Explorer must sail down south, perhaps as far as 52°, to pick up the strong south-westerlies. A route more akin to a staircase, which hour after hour is only widening the distance in longitude behind Club Med. Roger Nilson, the yacht's navigator, is deploying all his energy, backed-up by Elena Caputo, to deciphering from the tons of information spewed out by the computers and Internet, the saving route towards a similar weather system to the leader's.
For Tony Bullimore and his men on Team Legato, there is no need for thousands of computer files to understand the situation. The Briton is trying to cut due south across a vast zone of high pressure that is nonchalantly wandering about the middle of the South Atlantic. Struggling along at 6 knots in a pathetic breeze coming inconveniently from the south-east, Team Legato is enviously eyeing the islands of Tristan da Cunha and the nicely established westerlies now being enjoyed by Warta-Polpharma 850 miles to the East. Tony's salvation lies in the 40s, 600 miles to the south.
Eyes wide open: It was Innovation Explorer's turn yesterday evening to pass the Prince Edward Islands, 90 miles to the south. Well-settled in the 50s, Peyron's boys are "keeping their three eyes open: one on the thermometer, one on the radar and one on the horizon!"
PlayStation almost home: Steve Fossett's catamaran is sailing between the paradise islands of Grand Cayman and the Bahamas. Just west of Abaco Island, PlayStation is no more than a day away from Miami.
Warta-Polpharma in the running for a podium? Cheerful and with morale running high, Roman Paszke's Poles are heading east as fast as the smallest catamaran in the fleet will carry them. And with the speedo nudging 25 knots, they are beginning to dream.
Team Adventure trapped in South Africa until Friday, then confronted with headwinds before getting back to the direct route in the Indian Ocean could well cross paths with Warta-Polpharma! But in what position?
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