Maserati's transatlantic record bid in jeopardy

Still just ahead of the record, Soldini and his team are currently passing through a ridge

Sunday May 13th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Having been more than 200 miles ahead of the monohull west to east transatlantic record holder Mari Cha IV's pace, so Maserati's advantage has dwindled overnight as she has been forced to head northeast in search of breeze. At the latest sched (0658 GMT) she had 1210.20 miles left to sail to the Lizard, her lead over Robert Miller's giant schooner down to 42 miles.

The original routing before leaving New York indicated that Maserati would take 1 day 11 hours off Mari Cha IV's reference time. However now it is much closer.

"Up to now everything was working out okay," said Soldini. "But now the weather patterns have changed: behind the cold front there is no longer a north-west wind but the high pressure. The only thing we can do is to choose a northerly route and try to catch the north-westerly wind we were expecting to find along our original route. If the high pressure moves east slowly, we will be able to break the record anyway, even if without such a large margin. But if the high pressure moves faster, we will end up sailing in dead calm and we will have to wait until it's over. Everything will be decided between tonight and tomorrow: just moving 10 miles east or west could be enough to break the speed record. The weather forecasts keep changing, sometimes it seems we will be able to escape east, sometimes it looks like we will end up in dead calm. We'll have to take our chance without giving up, as we always do. Every mile we gain north or east is of vital importance."

Maserati is currently going through the trickiest part of her voyage weather-wise as she crosses a ridge between the giant area of high pressure to the south and another up in the Labrador Sea between Canada and Greenland. However at present the Italian modified VO70 is heading northeast on the shortest route out of this light patch and should soon be keying into the favourable northwesterly flow from the depression to her northeast. Once into these, the Maserati crew will be able to turn their bows southeast and get back on track, although by this stage she may have fallen behind the record pace.

Once into the northwesterlies Maserati should pick up speed, but the wind angle isn't ideal being almost dead downwind.

Fortunately they are out of the worst of the iceberg territory which they entered after passing Newfoundland, sailing through fog, floating ice in 2.3°C water at 20 knots.

"It is indeed an eerie feeling to be dodging icebergs in thick fog near where the Titanic sank about 100 years ago," said navigator and watch leader Brad Van Liew. "The fog is very dense and Maserati (our little carbon sailing rocket ship) seems highly unnatural in the vicinity of such difficult to detect chunks of hard water."

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (GFS model) from PredictWind

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