Podium spot by three hours
At 08:37:20 GMT on Saturday 5 November, Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs took third place in Leg 1 of the doublehanded, Class40 Global Ocean Race on their first generation Akilaria, Financial Crisis, completing the podium behind Leg 1 winners, Ross and Campbell Field from New Zealand on BSL and second place Class40 Campagne de France of the Franco-British duo Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron. The Italian-British duo on Financial Crisis completed the 7,000 mile opening leg of the GOR circumnavigation in just under 41 days, scoring a total of 23 points for Leg 1.
In 12-14 knots of breeze, a long, rolling five metre swell and bright sunshine, Nannini and Peggs reached close inshore, sailing under Lionshead Point and Signal Hill to the finish line off the breakwater in Cape Town. Just under three hours later at 11:26:15 GMT, the New Zealand-Spanish duo of Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon finished in fourth place with their Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation after the final days of intensely hard racing between the two Class40s.
For Nannini and Peggs, arriving on the Leg 1 podium was a surprise: “It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Marco Nannini as Financial Crisis circled off Cape Town harbour having crossed the finish line. “We didn’t expect to take third place and we had to work very hard for it as Conrad and Hugo really weren’t going to let it go, so it’s been a really tough, final few days.” Having dropped to fourth place, Cessna Citation pushed hard, chasing Nannini and Peggs with both boats sustained breakages due to the increased pressure.
“We completely trashed the A6 last night,” confirms Paul Peggs and the demise of their spinnaker began a spiral of breakages. “The runner block blew up simultaneously and we then broke the pulpit,” he continues, pointing to the twisted stainless steel at the bow. “It all happened in darkness, so we’ll have to have a good look and see what the damage is.”
With a very tight budget for their GOR campaign, both Nannini and Peggs are aware that any major damage could end the circumnavigation for Financial Crisis: “Surfing down the waves with the speedo reading over 22 knots is really very fast for this boat,” Nannini explains. “In the past few nights we were hitting 17 or 18 knots with just the mainsail and Solent and it’s right on the risk limit,” he continues. “You don’t win a race by going balls-out and racing the boat close to the edge,” the Italian skipper maintains. “You win by going the right way and that’s how we plan to hold on to third place for the rest of the circumnavigation.”
For both skippers, GOR Leg 1 was a wake-up call for the remainder of the round-the-world race: “It’s been tough,” admits Peggs. “Much, much tougher than I thought it was ever going to be.” For his co-skipper, the first taste of racing in the Southern Hemisphere has confirmed the reputation of vastness and danger associated with the Southern Ocean: “Once you cross the Equator, everything is bigger,” says Nannini. “In the Northern Hemisphere you’ve got flying fish; in the Southern Hemisphere you’ve got large flying squid,” he continues. “The nights are dark and the clouds are menacing, so you think, OK, it is just like in the books!”
The minimal time distance between Financial Crisis and Cessna Citation is typical of Class40 racing, but over 7,000 miles in GOR Leg 1, the deficit is astonishing. Having held third place soon after leaving the Mediterranean, Cessna Citation built a 70 mile lead over Financial Crisis as the main group of Class40s raced through the Cape Verde Islands and – at the halfway point in Leg 1 – extended to a 90-mile lead as Colman and Ramon crossed the Fastnet Marine Insurance Gate off the Brazilian Island of Fernando de Noronha after 21 days of racing. One week later, Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis plunged in a steep dive through the South Atlantic attempting to slide under the high-pressure system swelling across the South Atlantic and blocking their route to Cape Town – the weather system that caused the large separation between the leading two Class40s and the main pack. Colman and Ramon kept to the east, close to the high-pressure, covering Financial Crisis and were forced far to the north on a brutally long beat, losing miles and eventually relinquishing third place.
On 30 October, Colman and Ramon dropped south, reconnecting with the fleet, levelling out of their dive below the latitude of Cape Town and eating into the 130-mile lead built by Nannini and Peggs, averaging over 13 knots for 24 hours and 15 knots for three hours, pushing their Akilaria RC2 right to the edge. After the immensely hard chase and coming so close to retaking third place, Conrad Colman was overjoyed with the sailing over the final days of Leg 1: “It’s been the best 1,000 miles of racing I’ve ever done,” he confirmed on the race pontoons at North Wharf in the V&A Waterfront Marina. However, taking fourth place behind Nannini and Peggs did leave a bitter taste: “It’s kind of disgusting really and déjà vu as Marco and I raced across the Atlantic solo last year and he did this to me then,” Colman recalls of the single-handed 2010 Route du Rhum. “On that occasion he beat me by six minutes after 3,000 miles,” adds the 27 year-old Kiwi. “This is the last time it’s going to happen!”
For Colman’s 26 year-old Spanish co-skipper, there is a hint of disappointment: “We were expecting to do a little bit better, but we’re still learning about the boat and we don’t have to be disappointed with the result,” says Hugo Ramon. “Marco and Paul did a really fantastic race, so you cannot take that away from them,” he adds. “It’s so pleasing to be here and I’m going to enjoy it a lot,” he predicted while shaving off his ‘Movember’ moustache grown to help raise funds for prostate cancer charities.
Having first met when the boat was launched mid-summer this year, Leg 1 has been an additional challenge for the two former Mini 6.50 sailors. “Sailing itself wasn’t the issue,” confirms Colman. “We have a new boat which is not always the blessing it seems,” he adds. “We put it in the water in June and we’ve done maybe 2,500 miles together and we just didn’t have time to optimise the boat,” Colman explains. “There were so many small things like clutches failing, ropes that were just a little bit too small and slipping in the clutches, so we constantly had a cat’s cradle in the cockpit with sheets crossing everywhere to winches and we’d be ducking and diving all over the place to move about. So, we’ve learnt a lot about the boat, but also about ourselves,” he concludes. There is one thing upon which the duo agree completely: “Getting to the start line was the high point of Leg 1,” Colman confirms. “When looking to fund the campaign, so many times our hopes were raised and then dashed, so just to hear the start gun go was the sweetest sound we’ve ever heard.”
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 Leg 1 (Palma - Cape Town) results:
1. BSL: Ross and Campbell Field (NZL). Tyker 40 Class40. Launched 2008. 32d 17h 13m 25s. Finish: 05:13:25 GMT 28/10/11. Distance: 7,300 miles. Average speed 9.3kts
2. Campagne de France: Halvard Mabire/Miranda Merron (FRA/GBR). Pogo 40S² Class40. Launched 2011. 33d 07h 43m 40s (BSL + 14h 30m 15s). Finish 19:43:40 GMT 28/10/11. Distance: 7,159 miles. Average speed 9.11kts
3. Financial Crisis: Marco Nannini/Paul Peggs (ITA/GBR). First Generation Akilaria Class40. Launched 2008. Leg 1 data TBA
4. Cessna Citation: Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon (NZL/SPA). Akilaria RC2 Class40. Launched 2011. Leg 1 data TBA
Global Ocean Race points at the end of Leg 1:
1. BSL has scored a total of 35 points in GOR Leg 1 (5 points for crossing the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate in 2nd place + 30 points for 1st place in Leg 1).
2. Campagne de France has scored a total of 31 points in GOR Leg 1 (6 points for crossing the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate in 1st place + 25 points for finishing Leg 1 in second place)
3. Financial Crisis has scored a total of 23 points in GOR Leg 1 (3 points for crossing the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate in 4th place + 20 points for finishing Leg 1 in third place)
4. Cessna Citation has scored a total of 19 points in GOR Leg 1 (4 points for crossing the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate in 3rd place + 15 points for finishing Leg 1 in fourth place)
With four GOR Class40s moored in the V&A Waterfront Marina, two teams have yet to complete Leg 1; the South African team on Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing holding fifth place and the Dutch duo of Nico Budel and Ruud van Rijsewijk on Sec. Hayai. In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Saturday, Phesheya-Racing was averaging 10.3 knots with 120 miles remaining to the finish line in Cape Town holding a lead of 136 miles over Sec. Hayai.
Despite the proximity to their home port after 41 days at sea, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire are unsure of their ETA at the finish line: “On our current course and speed we should arrive in about 18 hours or around 06:00 South African time,” reported Nick Leggatt on Saturday afternoon. “However, the GRIB files are predicting some extremely light winds for the final few miles, with Sunday forecast to be calm in Cape Town,” he continues. “Based on this forecast, the Adrena navigation software gives an ETA of 17:00 local - so it looks like definitely some time on Sunday!”