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Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson take third on the Portimão Global Ocean Race leg to Brazil

Friday April 3rd 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
An hour after sunset at 22:36:35 GMT, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson sailed Class 40, Team Mowgli across the finish line of Portimão Global Ocean Race Leg 3 in Ilhabela, Brazil, taking third place in the double-handed class and finishing the 7,500 mile voyage from Wellington, New Zealand, in 40 days 21 hours 21 minutes 35 seconds; under nine hours after second place Beluga Racer.

While the wind dropped rapidly for the British duo just short of the finish line and a long, greasy swell made the final mile slow and uncomfortable with the Class 40 propelled across the line by willpower and a 2.5 knot favourable current, the days leading up to the finish were a huge comeback for Salvesen and Thomson. Having hooked into a cold front very early on Wednesday morning, Team Mowgli picked up the pace dramatically polling averages above 12 knots and reducing the lead held by the race leaders from 214 miles to 50 miles in a little over 30 hours. “It was 30 knots and we had the kite up and it really was the most exciting sailing,” described Salvesen within minutes of finishing racing. “We had too much sail up, but it was just too much fun.” Eventually, sense prevailed. “When the wind went up to 35 knots, we put a reef in,” he reports, although there was a high price to pay. “It went overcast at night and we did quite a lot of broaching,” continues Salvesen. “In one of the broaches we broke a spinnaker sheet, it wasn’t a brand new one, but we were just pushing a bit too hard. Then, 20 miles off the finish line a big cloud appeared – which usually means strong wind - but it went very variable from all over the place.”

As Team Mowgli motored towards the main town of Ilhabela, escorted by support boats carrying friends and family, both Salvesen and Thomson had time to reflect on the journey. “It has been an amazing voyage through the most remote areas on the planet,” explains Salvesen. “For most of the time we were 1,000 miles from land and Cape Horn was without doubt the highlight of the leg; it just has to be.” The duo rounded Cape Horn on 20th March in conditions gusting up to 60 knots on the final approach. “It was night, but we did see the two lighthouses,” confirms Salvesen. “We had a pretty rough time getting round the cape, but that’s the way it should be. I’m really glad we went round in 35-40 knots of breeze.”

Although co-skipper David Thomson is a highly experienced offshore sailor, Salvesen only learnt to sail three years ago and the Portimão Global Ocean Race circumnavigation continues to be a very steep learning curve. “There were no real low points,” he says. “We didn’t break anything and we didn’t have any really bad weather.” There are, however, degrees of ‘bad’. “On Leg 2, after leaving Cape Town, we sailed through 80 knot gusts and now we take 50 knots in our stride,” Salvesen comments. “They’re strong weather conditions, but we know we can handle it.” For Team Mowgli, the latest result in Leg 3 - finishing within half a day of Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Beluga Racer after 40 days racing - proves that Salvesen and Thomson are becoming a force to be reckoned with. “You just carry on learning,” admits the British skipper. “Sometimes it’s just little things and sometimes it’s knowing when to use water ballast and when not to push the boat too hard and break things.” With two legs remaining in the Portimão Global Ocean Race, Team Mowgli are well into their stride.

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