Global Ocean Race: New leader

Nannini and Ramon overhaul Cessna Citation

Saturday February 18th 2012, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: none selected

At 01:00 GMT on Saturday morning, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon stopped their dive south, bounced off latitude 60°S within miles of a high pressure zone’s windless core and - three hours later – took the lead of the Global Ocean Race with Class40 Financial Crisis. Making the best speed averages of the trio, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire continue to gain ground on the leaders with Phesheya-Racing as they approach the known iceberg area southeast of the bluQube Scoring gate below 55°S.

Since taking the lead early on Saturday, Nannini and Ramon have managed to average one knot faster than Cessna Citation. “The battle with Cessna continues on the high seas,” reports Nannini. For the Italian-Spanish team on Financial Crisis, the tack northeast taken by Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel with Cessna Citation on Friday played into their hands. “We welcomed their move as we know that as long as we are in the same winds, we cannot beat a latest generation boat,” says Nannini of Colman’s Akilaria RC2. “It's like a very slow game of chess where each move takes days to show its merits or prove to be an error.”

At 15:00 GMT on Saturday, the moves on Financial Crisis were paying well and a lead of 30 miles had been built with Nannini and Ramon 60 miles to the south of Colman and Kuttel as the headwinds continued. “We have had a bit of luck with the weather helping us catch them when they got away after the first ten days of racing,” Nannini concedes. “Upwind we can still play cat and mouse, but soon when the wind shifts and we'll be reaching, we will struggle to keep the same speeds.”

While the leaders wait for the wind shift down by 60S, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are continuing to make good speed downwind reducing the distance deficit as they slide south through the Furious Fifties. “At the moment we’re sailing in a cold, grey fog with the Garmin radar on permanent watch for icebergs,” reported Phillippa Hutton-Squire early on Saturday as they edge closer to the area below 55°S and between 120-110°W where icebergs have been recorded by satellite imagery. On Saturday afternoon, the South African duo was also around 300 miles NNW of the two icebergs confirmed visually by Colman and Kuttel on Thursday.

Currently at 53°S, Hutton-Squire reports nine hours of darkness which are split into three-hour watches and with temperatures at 8°C, it’s an uncomfortable period: “It’s bitter and very damp on deck and getting out of bed straight into the cold can be painful,” she confirms. However, there are distraction from the numbing cold and the constant radar monitoring duties: “The are two things we are keeping an eye out for on the clear nights but haven’t seen yet,” continues Hutton-Squire. “The Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, are strange, shimmering patterns of light in the night sky caused by solar activation of the ionosphere,” she explains. “Another phenomenon which can be experienced when far enough south is a faint glow on the southern horizon like the lights of a large city caused by the light of the sun reflecting off the ice and snow of the Antarctic.”

In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Saturday, Phesheya-Racing was making the best speed in the fleet at just under nine knots, trailing Financial Crisis by 739 miles – a 40-mile gain on the leaders in the past 24 hours.

After 20 days of hard racing, both Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing have reported non-catastrophic damage on board as evidence of the stress and loads of 4,000 miles of Pacific Ocean racing begin to appear. “We’ve broken a sheave on the boom-end sheave box,” reports Marco Nannini. “This caused one of the reefing pennants to damage the carbon sheave separators,” he explains. “Not a big deal, but it will make reefing a slightly lengthier manoeuvre.” There is also a broken mainsail car on Financial Crisis. “This is not an issue in light winds, but we have to hope this will not prove to be a problem in the heavy downwind conditions we expect later at the Horn.”

On Phesheya-Racing, Phillippa Hutton-Squire’s sleep last night was abruptly interrupted by a load bang: “Next thing I knew, Nick was preparing to drop the kite and it was boots on and jacket on in a fashion and up on deck,” she reports. The spinnaker’s tackline fitting had failed and Hutton-Squire quickly prepared to let the halyard run while Leggatt pulled down the snuffer sock on the foredeck. “We were very lucky that there was only ten to 15 knots of wind and the swell was only two metres,” says Hutton-Squire. “Nick managed to snuff the kite before it wrapped around the spreaders or the forestay.” Leggatt suspended himself on the bowsprit fixing a lashing for the tackline and the sail was re-hoisted in under 20 minutes.

GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 18/2/12:
1. Financial Crisis DTF 2262 7.9kts
2. Cessna Citation DTL 30 6.6kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 739 8.8kts

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