The race from Brazil to the USA has been tough for Salvesen and Thomson. On the third day at sea, they were forced to seek shelter from strong breeze on the Brazilian coast to unwrap their spinnaker from the masthead and although the pit stop was swift, by the time Team Mowgli passed through the Recife Scoring Gate three days later on 1st May, the gap between Salvesen and Thomson and the doublehanded leaders Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer had increased to 136 miles.
In an attempt to catch the leading two Class 40s, the duo took the gamble of taking a different, more easterly, route through the Doldrums rather than following the leaders and by the time they crossed the Equator five days after the scoring gate, the distance deficit to the German team had increased to 258 miles: a distance that was magnified by a tortuous journey through the fickle conditions of the Doldrums.
“It’s been like all the legs so far,” explained Salvesen shortly after crossing the finish line. “There have been highs and lows and we had more of our fair share of lows this leg, which is unlucky.” For Thomson, a career sailor with his eyes on a Class 40 of his own, the leg has been disappointing: “It has been a hugely frustrating leg,” he comments. “We had a slow, light airs start out of Ilhabela and being the heaviest boat in the fleet, we got left behind,” recalls Thomson. “Then the breeze filled in and we pulled in some miles, but then stopping for the spinnaker wrap really put paid to the rest of the leg, although we managed to salvage the spinnaker.”
For Salvesen, the deciding moment of Leg 4 was the transition through the unstable weather in the Doldrums around the Equator. “The most unlucky thing for us was the Doldrums,” he confirms. “We made a judgment call to take a different route through than the others based on it being difficult to win just by following,” explains Salvesen, describing the thought process. “As it turned out, we ended up with a badly loaded dice and it cost us hundreds and hundreds of miles which were never able to make up again.” The Doldrums transit was painful and virtually impossible to predict with constantly inaccurate weather data, arriving on Team Mowgli. “The weather for three days was also the complete opposite of what the GRIB files were telling us,” adds Thomson.
Despite the major losses incurred in the Doldrums, Salvesen and Thomson were never discouraged. “We were pretty philosophical about it,” says Salvesen, “and we just kept on plugging away. We always found something to race against, even if it was just the local dolphin population!” The British duo also made solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty a potential target. “We always had Michel in our sights,” continues Salvesen. “Which is a bit unfair on him as he’s on his own, but until we had the spinnaker trouble a couple of days ago, we always thought we were going to catch him.”
Other than sail damage, Team Mowgli is in excellent shape for the final transatlantic leg of the circumnavigation from Charleston to Portimão beginning on Sunday 31st May. “The boat is fine, but we blew our masthead spinnaker and the fractional spinnaker that got a wrap a couple of days ago is slightly damaged,” reports Thomson. “Other than that, the boat has stood up very well,” he adds, although ‘bot-rot’ has struck both the yachtsmen. “I’ve got a sore backside,” he concedes, “but apart from that, everything is fine!”
With the final boat in the fleet safely in City Marina, Charleston, the celebrations will be intense, but with just 12 days until the start of the highly competitive Leg 5 - where the honour of winning the final sprint across the north Atlantic is paramount - the clock is already ticking.
Double-handed class Leg 4 times and averages:
1. Beluga Racer - Finish time 00:49:47 GMT 17/05. 21d 08h 49m 47s. Ave Spd 9.3kts
2. Desafio Cabo de Hornos – Finish time 17:15:03 GMT 17/05. 22d 01h 55m 03s. Ave Spd 9kts
3. Team Mowgli – Finish time 13:35:00 GMT 19/05. 23d 21h 35m 00s. Ave Spd 8.32kts
Double-handed class overall points after Leg 4:
1. Beluga Racer – 46 points
2. Desafio Cabo de Hornos – 39 points
3. Team Mowgli – 29 points
Single-handed class Leg 4 time and average:
1. Roaring Forty – Finish time 22:44:55 GMT 18/05. 23d 06h 44m 55s. Ave Spd 8.54kts