Seven point lead

A releaved Stu Bannatyne describes the highlights on a tense leg into Rio on illbruck
Another harsh Southern Ocean leg over, it had everything you could wish for and most things you don't. We had it all from the legendary strong westerlies for high speed running, snow storms, squalls and icebergs aplenty. We even had a run in with a large shark one rather inhospitable night. No one knows quite how he managed it but this rather unfortunate fish managed to wrap itself around our keel while were blasting along at 20 knots plus in 30-35 knots of wind. A quick spinnaker drop and backdown to remove the fish, rehoist the spinnaker and we were off again. Sounds easy but a manoeuvre like that in the middle of the night probably cost us in the vicinity of 10 miles - a very expensive fishing trip! Although it was a harsh but ultimately very rewarding and satisfying trip through the southern latitudes the final 2,200 miles from Cape Horn produced some of the toughest racing mentally. With big splits in the fleet it was impossible for us to cover all our opposition so we stuck to our race proven strategy of plugging away up the middle. It was really frustrating to see our lead of 70 miles first grow to almost 100 and then slowly but surely have it whittled away to just over 10 with a day or so to go. It was hardly consoling knowing the breeze was better behind and that things would even up as the fleet compressed. I much preferred the 70 mile gap than the stressful situation of the last few days of light air with a couple of hundred miles to go and a 60 mile spread covering the first five boats. I have to say again how happy I am with the guys around me as we raced