Approaching the scoring gate

The latest from the Global Ocean Race

Saturday December 10th 2011, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: none selected

The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 leaders are at full pace, closing in on the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild on the Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation are blasting ahead in first place, just a handful of miles from the scoring gate, consistently averaging over 14 knots despite halyard issues and increasing their lead over Campagne de France and BSL. Further north and trailing the leading trio by 366 miles at 15:00 GMT on Saturday, Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing have locked down as the cold front sweeping eastwards pounces on the two Class40s.

On Phesheya-Racing in fifth place, the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire have been watching the cold front approach and are expecting a sudden, strong, icy blast of wind from the south: “How can we even begin to prepare ourselves for this, one might ask?” says Hutton-Squire. “Well, we’ve been getting as much sleep as possible, eating, securing and stacking everything down below,” she reports. “Most importantly, we’ve been keeping a careful watch on the weather and how the low has been moving. This is crucial as we don’t want to have too much wind that we can’t handle and we have to be careful and look after the boat. We are not even half way round the world yet, so we need to sail in winds that we can cope with.”

Further east in fourth place and marginally north of the South Africans, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon were averaging just under ten knots on Financial Crisis and keeping ahead of the front on Saturday morning: “The cold front is about to reach us and behind us I can see broken clouds and some blue sky here and there,” reported Nannini at noon GMT on Saturday. “It rained earlier and the wind has kept on backing,” he adds, noting the early physical signs of impending strong breeze. “However, as we are sailing relatively fast in the same direction as the front, it is taking forever to overtake us.” While Nannini and Ramon are currently 29 miles ahead of Phesheya-Racing, the leaders further south are pulling away from Financial Crisis. “The front runners, who kept in a belt with more wind, may be able to stay ahead of the front for some time and still clock a tremendous amount of miles,” confirms the Italian skipper. “For us, the game is different; we’re too far back to play the same route and we’ll be pushed to stay further north to avoid a high pressure that would swallow us in a few days,” he adds, breaking away from his forecasting and looking out of the companionway hatch: “I can see sunshine breaking through the clouds! The front will be over us any moment I guess!”

Conrad Colman and Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, have been leading the fleet uninterrupted with Cessna Citation since Friday afternoon, averaging 13, then 14 and 14 knots-plus, building a lead of 30 miles over Campagne de France at 15:00 GMT despite an action-packed Friday night. “Things here got a little spicy last night,” reported Colman on Saturday morning. “The fractional 2:1 halyard chafed through in the dark, but we recovered the Code 5 without damage.” Colman winched Goodchild up the mast two and-a-half times, but the fix wasn’t completed. “We still don’t have a serviceable mouse line,” confirms the New Zealander. “Currently we’re still the fastest boat in the fleet under just main and Solent, solid 13-14 knots with surfs to 22 knots.” The duo is currently relying heavily on their autopilot: “It’s too wet out there,” says Colman. “Plus, we need to rest up for our next assault on the rig.” Colman and Goodchild re-spliced the recovered halyard, but a mouse line to feed the halyard needed to be run down through the inside of the mast: “We just need some luck dangling lines!”

Later on Saturday, Goodchild reported the repaired halyard was now in place: “We don’t need it now but, we know exactly how valuable it will be in the next few days,” he predicts. With the halyard sorted, the Class40’s interior needed attention: “Down below resembles a bit of a paddling pool at the moment,” says Goodchild. “The air is still very humid so everything is constantly damp; thermals, boots, sleeping bags…everything.” Drying gear or clothing is impossible in the current conditions. “In the afternoon we get a bit of sun through the back of the boat which does its best to help, but only if there are no clouds and the temperature at the moment is okay,” he confirms, although it is brutally uncomfortable after dark: “In the day we are wearing three layers and at night a couple more but, with the moisture, it is horribly cold.”

On BSL in third place, Ross and Campbell Field vowed on Friday to stop slipping back behind the two lead boats and have upped the pace, averaging 12-14 knots for 24 hours: “Fire hose sailing again today; fast, very, very fast, but so wet the dry suit was broken out,” reported Campbell Field on Saturday morning. “It’s a wild ride with water flying everywhere both on deck and below it seems,” he explains. “Not sure how it is getting in, but every time I come downstairs there’s another bucketful to bail out.” At 15:00 GMT on Saturday, BSL trailed Cessna Citation by 33 miles and Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, who have taken Campagne de France to the north, by just three miles. “For all the banging and crashing and water flying everywhere, it is fantastic sailing,” says Campbell. “Pushing hard just to the edge of the comfort level, then dropping in a reef until we feel like we are being a bunch of nanas, then reef out until the nerves start clanging,” says Campbell. “Despite this, plenty of sleeping and eating going on and it’s a good feeling to get into a warm bunk for a couple of hours knowing that you can get a couple of solid hours sleep - mainly due to the stable wind direction and speed - something we have not experienced a lot of in the first week or so of this leg.”

While BSL hurtles east averaging 13.9 knots, Campbell Field’s thoughts turn to home on the other side of the world, in Lymington on the English South Coast: “Today I was reminded of the level of commitment from families behind us,” he begins. “It is my wife Tracy’s birthday today, something I have missed very few of,” says Campbell. “While we are all out here charging across the bottom of the planet, life goes on back at home, in fact made more challenging by our absence. Thank you honey for your support, hope you have a wonderful birthday!” Despite the gap left in the day by separation from home, it is getting very festive at 44°S and 67°E: “Now that 10th December has passed, I can officially start Xmas preparations,” Campbell confirms. “It is agreed with Tracy that Xmas doesn't start until the 10th so that her birthday is not overshadowed - fair enough I say.” With the Christmas embargo lifted, the Indian Ocean branch of the Field clan are getting busy: “So, we have some tinsel to break out and decorate with, but more importantly the Xmas fruit mince pies, yule log, shortbread and other goodies that Tracy supplied for the trip.” The celebrations have arrived just in time to avert violence on BSL: “Ross has been pestering me for the last ten days about these goodies and it has only just fallen short of physical restraint to stop him from raiding the pantry,” he continues. “So, this afternoon, a cup of tea and a piece of cake is in order….”

Leaderboard at 15:00 GMT:
1. Cessna Citation: DTF 4,521 14.1kts
2. Campagne de France: DTL 30 13.2kts
3. BSL: DTL 33 13.9kts
4. Financial Crisis: DTL 399 8.9kts
5. Phesheya-Racing: DTL 428 9.1kts

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