In an unusual twist the lead boat on the water, Team Mowgli, is actually in third place in terms of miles to go to the gate. Team Mowgli, skippered by Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson, is the southernmost boat in the fleet and as such on a distance-to-go basis toward New Zealand they have a 27 mile lead over the Chilean team aboard Desafio Cabo de Hornos. The Chileans in turn lead the Germans on Beluga Racer by five miles, but it’s the Germans who are closest to the gate!
Aboard Beluga Racer they have a mainsail set with a small Code 5 spinnaker billowing out front, an ideal rig for keeping the speed up and the boat on course. On Team Mowgli they ‘had’ a spinnaker set, but the wind gods brought it down as Jeremy Salvesen noted in his daily blog:
“Today has been a very frustrating one,” he wrote. “The wind finally dropped sufficiently for us to get our fractional spinnaker up and really start pushing again for the gate. However, within 15 minutes of getting it up, the halyard broke leaving the sail dragging in the water. These sails are pretty huge and pulling them in by hand from a moving boat is a hard and difficult job - but we managed to get it in without causing any damage.”
Earlier in the day Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer had done just the same thing. Their large spinnaker backed against the mast at the end of a long surf and instead of cleanly refilling, it caught on a spreader and ripped the sail in two dropping the lower half into the water. It’s a long and arduous process to drag the sail back on board but a sail saved is a sail that can be repaired and used later in the leg. The weather has finally settled down allowing for belated Christmas celebrations.
On Team Mowgli Jeremy and David set about making the most of their cold, damp circumstances to bring some Christmas cheer to their tiny cabin. “Well, we did manage to have our Christmas yesterday as the weather settled down in the afternoon,” Jeremy wrote. “We still ate freeze dried food but enjoyed some champagne and even a bottle of fine Cape red wine. We sat on the bench seat opening all our presents, wearing our silly Santa hats and had a merry old time. Pip (Team Mowgli’s Project Manager) had very kindly given us a pair of fine Cuban cigars so we puffed away merrily with our glass of red and had a fine old time.”
The only boat not back up to full speed is Nico Budel on Hayai. In the second gale earlier this week his mainsail cars exploded forcing him to drop the sail. The gale also took out his communications equipment and Nico is waiting for some calmer weather to effect a repair on the sail. For now, however, he is sailing with just a headsail set and trails the leading solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans on board Roaring Forty, by over 400 miles.