Loggerheads for first place

As the Challenge Transat boats fight it out mid-Atlantic

Thursday August 29th 2002, Author: Rachel Anning, Location: Transoceanic
BG Group and Vail Williams are still fighting it out for first place in the Challenge Transat, with BG Group, skippered by John Burfitt out in front by three miles. Logica, which is in third place, is still having intermittent problems with its water maker; Spirit of Hong Kong and Team SpirIT are fourth and fifth with BP Explorer clawing their way back, 81 miles behind the leader.

The teams are now getting into the hard and fast pace of racing united by their passion for boat speed and trimming their primary focus.

The racing remains very close on these one-design yachts. TeamSpirIT, in fifth place, spotted Vail Williams sixteen miles ahead. "Spotting Vail Williams on horizon first light this morning after chasing the stern light of Logica all night was a welcome sight," wrote mate Peter Scoggins. "Good sailing conditions all day, Genoa and full main, steadily making ground on both Logica and Vail."

The mild weather has meant favourable night-time sailing with CVs on watch reporting on the beauty surrounding them on the night sails. Bob Philips, aboard Vail Williams, commented: "Those of us on watch fell back onto the flaked genoa, looked up at the night sky and agreed - there was nowhere else on earth we would rather be."

However, there can be no room for complacency or rest as the weather pattern is becoming more ominous over the North Atlantic and the fleet is going to have to deal with changing conditions over the next few days. The cold front moving to the west of the fleet means teams will have to deal with some showery squalls, which could produce isolated gusts up to 35-40 knots. Friday's forecast shows lighter breezes although the next front will rapidly approach from the west on Saturday meaning that conditions will get quite rough for the fleet. Crew Volunteers will have to work hard with sustained winds from the South potentially producing gusts of up to 50 knots and seas likely building to 10-15 ft.

Apart from a shift in weather crews are also having to deal with their first real dose of dehydrated foods as fresh food supplies dwindle. "The first of the dehydrated food has begun working its way into the meals, but so far the response has been... polite," reported a crewmember aboard Logica. "In search of more calories, Rod even conceded to breaking his Marmite virginity, muttering afterward that it would never happen again!"

These vital calories may provide the additional sustenance required to cope with this next phase of the Challenge Transat which will be the most physically and mentally demanding so far.

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