A rough night

The Volvo fleet bash to windward on the way to Ushant

Sunday May 26th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Positions at 10.00 GMT 26 may 2002 .
1 Amer One 48 02.52N 005 06.72W 945 0 0 313 10
2 illbruck 48 01.40N 005 05.00W 946 1 -1 313 9.9
3 News Corporation 48 01.44N 005 04.76W 946 1 -1 312 10
4 SEB 48 00.92N 005 04.96W 947 2 0 315 9.8
5 Tyco 48 01.12N 005 04.16W 947 2 0 313 9.9
6 Assa Abloy 48 00.80N 005 04.64W 947 2 -1 316 10
7 djuice 47 59.72N 005 02.52W 949 4 0 313 9.8
8 Amer Too 47 50.48N 004 56.80W 958 13 1 320 9.4
    Hard on the wind all night, the Volvo fleet are approaching Ushant. Though the southwesterly flow has now settled to a reasonable 30 knots, the passage of a cold front during the night saw prolonged gusts in excess of 45 knots.

    "We are just stacked to the limits," reports Knut Frostad from aboard djuice. "We just had a 40 knot squall, but the wind went back to 25 right after. The only thing that seems to get worse is the waves. Bouncing and jumping from wave to wave, is very uncomfortable both for the boat and crew. Not much food has been eaten so far."

    It is a similar story aboard Tyco, and one suspects the rest of the fleet. "As first nights go that was not a pleasant one," reported Kevin Shoebridge. "About 2300 local our time the front hit the fleet giving us winds of 40 knots and a big seaway which we will all be glad to see the back of. The options have remained slim and the fleet is in close proximity as we head to a mark off of the Raz de Sein from where the corner of France at Ushant is only another 20 miles."

    Amer Sports One is about to pass the west cardinal mark, used as a waypoint off the Ile de Sein, hanging on to the one-mile lead. illbruck has drawn neck and neck with News Corp, but still the first six yachts are within two miles of each other and the smallest mistake could cost dear. After rounding the mark, the reaching headsails will go up for the 24-mile stretch to Ushant. The tide is about to turn and will push the yachts even faster into the English Channel. Though the distances between the fleet are currently quite small, expect the gaps to be magnified as they round the corner and blast away at full speed. Every yard gained now will be worth much more later.

    "In about ten hours will we reach Ushant and the northwest corner of France," says Frostad. "The waves are going to be worse there." Once around the famous island and its wave-washed lighthouse, the complexion of the race will change markedly. The strong southwesterly winds are forecast to continue for at least the next two days. Even the strong tides in the English Channel will do little to slow the progress of the fleet as they charge north to towards Norway and then Sweden.

    If the current positions are maintained (which one suspects they will not be) illbruck will have the race won by the time they get the Gothenberg. Perhaps more significantly, Assa Abloy and Amer Sports One will be tied for points going into the final leg.

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