Global Ocean Race: southward bound

Campagne de France back into the lead

Wednesday February 1st 2012, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: none selected

Speeds in the Global Ocean Race fleet rose dramatically throughout Tuesday as the Class40s dropped south below Chatham Island with the five boats reaching into the high latitudes on port in 25-30 knots of northerly wind. Having taken the lead early on Tuesday morning, Ross and Campbell Field hit the highest speed averages on their Tyker 40 Buckley Systems, polling 14 knots, while the chasing Class40s, Campagne de France with Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron and Cessna Citation with Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel consistently delivering 13+ knots.

The first generation Akilaria Phesheya-Racing pushing hard in fourth place also averaged over 13 knots on Tuesday – a GOR speed record for the South African team of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire – but dropped back to fifth place as Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon’s southern option taken shortly after the start of leg 3 with Financial Crisis began to pay as the Italian-Spanish duo converged with the main pack and closed in on the leaders.

While the strong conditions in Cook Strait immediately following the start in Wellington and the demanding luxury of fast reaching has thrown the GOR teams straight into action, the fleet’s progress east is now threatened by a low pressure system currently north-east of the boats and forecast to head directly towards the fleet. With the prospect of encountering 30-45-knot southerlies spinning from the system’s western edge, the options of being pinned north reaching, or beating south into a Force 7-8 had little appeal.

On Buckley Systems, Ross and Campbell Field were first to blink at 16:00 GMT on Tuesday, gybing and dropping south, handing the lead to Mabire and Merron on Campagne de France with Colman and Kuttel moving up to second on Cessna Citation: “You would have seen our move,” wrote Ross Field in a brief email as the GOR’s Geovoile Race Tracker revealed the drop south. “Don't panic, we think we know what we’re doing - we are investing in the future,” he continued.

Throughout Tuesday, under a handful of miles separated the Fields from the Franco-British duo on Campagne de France: “We spent yesterday and last night heavy running alongside our French mates,” confirms Ross Field. “Pushing hard and no sleep, which is very enjoyable, but we have now split from the main fleet and Campbell has been studying weather maps for hours,” he adds. A matter of four hours after Buckley Systems made the southern call, Campagne de France and Cessna Citation made the move simultaneously. At 03:00 GMT on Wednesday, Campagne de France is furthest east in the trio of Class40s with a lead of 21 miles over Cessna Citation, while the Field’s trail Mabire and Merron by just under 30 miles.

With the distances opening up for the leading trio, the return of Financial Crisis from southern exile has increased the heat for the GOR’s two first generation Akilarias. It has been a tough and tiring three days for the two teams; on Phesheya-Racing, Phillippa Hutton-Squire has had a bumpy start to the 6,300-mile course to the Leg 3 finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay: “The first few days at sea are always tricky for me,” admits the South African skipper. “I often get sea sick and the washing machine outside Cook Strait did it for me this time,” she explains. “Over falls and sudden increase in wind was enough to make me feel ill and I have been on a slow recovery since then.” Recuperation was assisted by homemade gingerbread men made by friends in Wellington: “They’ve been working like a charm,” she confirms.

At 03:00 GMT, Phesheya-Racing was 88 miles behind the lead Class40 and no amount of sail area or skilled driving could keep a hold on the pack: “Never the less, we have been trying to keep up with the front machines!” she says. “It has been hard work, but as soon as we got into the reaching conditions, they’ve been slipping away.” While Hutton-Squire coped with seasickness, the problems on Financial Crisis were purely material: “The start of this leg was far from simple for us with lots of little snags to worry about,” reports Nannini. “The brand new, spare NKE wind wand started throwing an error before even leaving the dock, but too late to do anything about it,” he explains. “The master alternator wasn’t initially charging the batteries; the ballast pump didn’t respond and the mast navigation and deck lights wouldn’t work on the first night.”

However, Nannini and Hugo Ramon threw themselves at the assortment of glitches: “On the second day we slowly fixed the problems and things looked up and we started enjoying the Pacific Ocean ride,” he confirms. Having plummeted down the leaderboard during their southern flier, the duo is now back in the fight, trailing Campagne de France by 33 miles and just four miles behind third-placed Buckley Systems in terms of distance To finish.

GOR Leaderboard at 03:00 GMT 01/02/12:

1. Campagne de France DTF 5387 10.7kts
2. Cessna Citation DTL 21.5 10.7kts
3. Buckley Systems DTL 29.7 10.3kts
4. Financial Crisis DTL 33 10.6kts
5. Phesheya-Racing DTL 88 7.9kts

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