Lurch for the finish line

Portimao Global Ocean Race boats compress as they approach the finish line at Ilhabela, Brazil

Thursday April 2nd 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Between 0400-0500 GMT on Wednesday, the cold front creeping along the east coast of South America arrived with an audible bang as boat speeds for the backmarkers tripled instantaneously. Furthest south in the double-handed fleet with 400 miles to the Ilhabela finish line, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on third place Team Mowgli were first to feel the new breeze, accelerating from three knots to eight knots and quickly removing 15 miles from Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer, 214 miles further north out of touch with the breeze and making just one knot. Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos, 150 miles ahead of the British team, felt the breeze turn south and lift an hour or so later, picking up the pace as the front rippled north.

Slightly south-east of the double-handed class, Michel Kleinjans on his lightweight Open 40, Roaring Forty, capitalised early, picking up speed and working the boat hard in the light headwinds on Tuesday afternoon and digging into the southerly breeze in the early evening and closing into under 20 miles of Team Mowgli at midnight before the British duo could connect with the cold front. By 0920 GMT, Herrmann and Oehme were still denied the new breeze, slipping below one knot boat speed as Team Mowgli charged up from the south, riding the front with the highest speed of ten knots, closing the gap on second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos to 142 miles as the Chilean duo reeled in the Germans to 42 miles.

Finally at midday, the breeze arrived for the Germans with speeds picking up on Beluga Racer with the Chilean team on Desafio Cabo de Hornos breathing down their necks 37 miles to the south. In the Wednesday 1820 GMT poll, Herrmann and Oehme have 134 miles to race with an ETA of 0800 GMT on Thursday at the Ilhabela finish line across the mouth of the channel between the island and the mainland. At the finish of Leg 1 in Cape Town, the German team crossed the line just three hours ahead of the Chileans; at the finish of Leg 2 in Wellington, the deficit between Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos was three and one half hours. For Leg 3, the finish promises to be even closer with Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz continuing to dig into the German’s lead, taking the deficit to 26 miles in the latest poll with a 10 knot sprint to the finish in around 15-20 knots of southerly breeze until a possible drop in wind strength close to the coast.

Currently trailing the Chileans by 121 miles, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are in stronger breeze to the south in around 20-22 knots of SSW breeze averaging a little under 12 knots on Team Mowgli with solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty just 44 miles off the British Class 40’s starboard quarter matching the double-handed boat’s speed. For Team Mowgli and Roaring Forty, the wind is forecast to turn further south-east and build in strength giving a fast final approach to the finish. After 7,500 miles and 39 days of ocean racing, the light and variable winds and impossible ETA guesswork is finally over in a full on blast to the finish.

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