The Race - 1630 - 23/1/01
Lewis announced his ambitious decision during his daily satellite phone call from Cape Town to The Race headquarters in Paris. "It will be a little bit more challenging," said the former Finn sailor, "but Bruno Peyron and I sailed around the world on Commodore Explorer with five people on an 80-footer. Jacques Vincent, my co-watch leader, and I will be changing the watch system and our co-navigators may have to spend more time grinding winches, but I am confident we can safely sail the balance of The Race," Lewis added.
The first two to get off the 110ft Ollier cat were the injured crew Michael Lundh and Jeffrey Wargo, neither of whom were passed fit after medical examinations in Cape Town. No-one was expecting anyone else to get off the boat but Myles - the boat's rigger and foredeck hand - attributed his decision to "personal reasons", while Deppe - the team cameraman and communications expert - used the same phrase to explain his actions.
It seems amazing that these sailors would forego the opportunity to complete The Race and one can only assume that all was not well among Lewis's crew for reasons that are as yet unexplained. During the time Team Adventure was on the course either leading Grant Dalton's Club Med or hotly pursuing it, Lewis was pushing harder than Dalton thought sensible. After coming to three "crash-stops" and seriously damaging the boat, Lewis is now saying his main objective "is to sail the boat safely to Marseilles."
"We will sail as a core team," he said. "While still trying to find a place on the podium, we will be racing with perhaps a bit more caution. I've been around with five crew before, so we will learn from our accident and look forward. While we are sad to see Rick Deppe and Rob Myles leave us, we appreciate that these are very individual decisions. I respect their choices and wish them well in their future sailing endeavours," Lewis added.
The repairs to Team Adventure will not be finished until Thursday at the earliest, giving her a stopover in South Africa of up to four days. Work is currently going on round-the-clock to repair the damaged main crossbeam, a ruptured internal bulkhead and a number of damaged half-frame bulkheads.
"It looks like impact damage," commented Lewis. "The damage permitted some torqueing and twisting of the beam. It is not a major problem, but it's a good thing we stopped to repair it." He added that he believes the boat will be stronger than ever when she leaves Cape Town and will once again be raced by a talented and motivated crew.
Out on the racecourse, meanwhile, Club Med is still 750 miles ahead of second-placed Innovation Explorer skippered by Loick Peyron and nearly 3,000 miles ahead of the Polish boat, Warta-Polpharma. Tony Bullimore and Team Legato were another 833 miles behind the Poles. After passing the Prince Edward Islands on Monday, Club Med was passing the Crozet Islands as she romps eastward in 30 knots of wind with one reef and an asymmetric storm spinnaker.
Commenting on the spin, Dalton said: "Compared to all the other sails on board, this one is quite different. It is a flying sail, not tight-luffed, more a conventional monohull-type design, a little fuller so as to keep set in the surfs. With this rig speeds are not spectacular but they are steady, around 23-25 knots on average and most of all, we feel safe."