Too close for comfort...
Of the six helmsmen on board Amer Sports One only three felt capable of steering in the on edge conditions. The three that have been taking the boat through the difficult seas and blustery winds are now all exhausted. Though the team lost relatively little after their wipeout it did provide Kevin Shoebridge's Team Tyco with the opportunity to slip into second place.
John Kostecki's illbruck Challenge remain unbreakable and, even in such hair raising conditions, are playing a tactically solid game. By midnight last night the top five chasing teams had gybed northwest, so illbruck followed suite - keeping inbetween Cape Horn and the fleet. However, with all the tactical skill in the world avoiding 'growlers' requires a relatively high level of luck.
"Three times have we passed a growler, the size of a car, so close that the white water around it actually touches the hull," described a nervous skipper of SEB, Gunnar Krantz. The team are currently the most southerly in the fleet - some 200 miles south of Jez Fanstone's News Corp after their 100-mile detour while affecting repairs having hit a growler. "Russian roulette is probably safer than this," concluded Krantz.
For many sailors in the world simply racing downhill in such excessive winds would be hard work enough, but doing it in the bitter temperatures of the Southern Ocean, at night, and in the middle of a 'growler' mine-field as the Volvo Ocean Race competitors are doing is practically unimaginable.
Jez Fanstone's News Corp spent over 100 miles sailing downwind yesterday while repairing damaged rigging and sails. This has positioned the team a hundred miles to the north of the leaders and dropped them back to seventh in the rankings. Though they are still neck-and-neck with SEB, their position could leave them on a slow, tighter, angle into Cape Horn, now just 1,500 miles away from the leaders.
Cayard believes the fleet could be out of the worst of the icebergs in as little as 24 hours time. However, between now and then the teams will sail another night time through growler territory. It seems that even with a well prepared boat, perfect tactical decisions, and good sailing the results of this leg will depend heavily on luck - avoiding or hitting a growler.
News Corp hammering through huge Southern Ocean waves
Page Two... Paul Cayard helming on the edge
Page Three... Lisa McDonald's impressions