Gamble pays for leader

As Challenge Business Round Britain race heads for the Shetlands

Friday April 25th 2003, Author: Rachel Anning, Location: United Kingdom
The audacious gamble of a southerly tack from Spirit of Southampton last night has proved a cunning plan as they charge into a five-mile lead over second place Logica CMG in Challenge Business' Round Britain Challenge.

As the fleet moves ever closer towards the next big milestone, Muckle Flugga, at the northern most tip of the Shetland Isles, the latest poll of positions has revealed dramatic changes on the leader-board.

BG Group is currently in third place but Basilica has now slipped into last place replacing Spirit of Hong Kong, now in neck and neck combat with Team Spirit for sixth place. The Daily Telegraph has also claimed fourth place over Vail Williams, which has now moved down to fifth.

Clive Cosby, skipper of BG Group is clearly still keen to stamp his authority on the race at this pivotal point: "We’re very determined to be first round Muckle Flugga."

Describing the navigational difficulties they will soon face he continued: "There’s some strong tides and an exposed headland, it’s like a northern Cape Horn! We will literally turn the corner and head for home." Present conditions have become "colder and wetter over the past few days, a bit miserable and there could be gales in a day or so."

This is a sentiment echoed by Mark Taylor, skipper of Team Spirit: "there’s lots of water coming over the deck, and very cold water at that, and a bitterly cold wind."

Dan Makavoy, of The Daily Telegraph described the sensation of racing aboard a Challenge yacht: "it’s like being in a washing machine except the water is on the outside!." These conditions have meant that there’s been some inevitable seasickness as LogicaCMG have revealed: "food was not at the top of the agenda today, with several of the crew, unable to keep much food down, resulting in one unfortunate Crew Volunteer, turning green!”

Despite bumpy conditions the race itself becomes more exciting with each day as the distance between the first and last placed boats continues to shrink. Although competition is intensifying spirits remain high across the fleet. The reasons behind some of the recent tactical decisions, which have shaped the leader-board, were explained today. After losing sight of Logica and BG Group at 22:00 last night, Spirit of Southampton "tacked inshore… and made a move east. After four hours we tacked back again, and are now making good progress towards our most northerly waypoint, Muckle Flugga."

An unusual move for a leading boat, John Farndell explained in their daily log today that they are now "20 miles further to the southeast. This puts us well upwind of them, and also on the inside line." This afternoon’s poll has clearly vindicated a perhaps unorthodox decision. Clive Cosby, skipper of BG Group explained via satellite phone this afternoon that they "headed up north east and were hoping the wind would go that way but it didn’t, it went south east so we lost out. We lost about 10 miles to Logica and Spirit of Southampton but we’ve got one of them back now and we’re going to keep pushing hard, we think we’ve made up some ground."

The tactical gamble may not have paid instant dividends but BG Group are currently in third place, applying pressure on LogicaCMG just three miles ahead. Everyone is now looking forward to the downwind leg home, or as Basilica puts it, "we do a hand brake turn and start to give the leaders a run for their money on the way back down to Southampton!"

Spirit of Hong Kong’s positive team attitude may have resulted in today’s move up the fleet, their daily log summing up how they are feeling about the race and their reason for taking part: "Knackered and wet through we sat on the rail and agreed we were getting exactly what we had signed up for and what we had spent long hours training for.

"Like the weather the race is also spicing up with just sixty miles between first and last and about half the race still to run anything could happen and probably will. No one on Spirit of Hong Kong has given up, morale is excellent and everyone is fit which is key.”

The yachts are due to round Muckle Flugga some time this evening.

Position report
1. Spirit of Southampton, DTL 0 2 miles.
2 LogicaCMG, DTL 5
3. BG Group DTL 8
4. The Daily Telegraph, DTL 16
5. Vail Williams, DTL 26
6. Team Spirit, DTL 40
7. Spirit of Hong Kong, DTL 40
8. Basilica, DTL 43

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