Global Ocean Race: Gulf Stream surge
The first night at sea was wet and lumpy for the four Global Ocean Race Class40s with a tough reintroduction to offshore racing following their stopover in Charleston, South Carolina, as the fleet sailed straight into headwinds as they cleared the coast of the USA.
Although the South African duo of Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt crossed the start line first with Phesheya-Racing on Saturday morning, the Kiwi-Australian duo of Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough led the fleet out of Charleston Harbour with Class40 Cessna Citation, clearing the protection of the city’s offshore piers and hardening up into the north-easterly wind and long, rolling seas.
With headwinds forecast for the first 24-48 hours of the 3,600-mile Leg 5 to Les Sables d’Olonne, France, the option of heading into the Gulf Stream came with the certainty of steep seas as the strong, northerly-flowing current churns into the northeasterly wind.
With the addition of Tropical Storm Alberto lurking east of Charleston, three of the Class40s - Cessna Citation, Phesheya-Racing and the Dutch team of Nico and Frans Budel on Sec. Hayai - kept west of the current, tacking in towards the coast between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout while the fourth Class40, Financial Crisis of the Italian-Slovak duo, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo, shot away from the coast, thundering into the Gulf Stream early GMT on Sunday morning.
Taking the lead from Cessna Citation, Financial Crisis was lifted as the breeze moved left and Nannini and Frattaruolo were hitting averages of just under ten knots as the Gulf Stream’s current pushed Nannini’s three-year-old Akilaria northeast parallel to the coast. On Phesheya-Racing, Nick Leggatt reported on conditions for the fleet: “As we got out to sea it was soon clear that conditions were already rougher and windier than forecast and we put a reef in the mainsail,” explained Leggatt early on Sunday morning. “As the seas built and it started to rain we weren’t particularly surprised to hear that we were on the fringes of Tropical Storm Alberto,” continues the South African. “The first storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season! What is surprising, though, is that it has formed nearly two weeks earlier than the official start of hurricane season!”
For the South Africans, the offshore route was not an option, but even inshore, conditions were rugged: “With the new forecast information to hand, we decided to avoid heading into the Gulf Stream for a while and instead have spent the night short tacking up the coast of South Carolina, first under double reefed main and latter under triple reefed main, as the seas are very steep and uncomfortable.”
Throughout Sunday, the chasing trio of boats were piling east away from the coast led by Cessna Citation, picking up speed and heading to intercept Nannini and Frattaruolo as the Italian-Slovak duo's lead climbed above 20 miles on Sunday afternoon.
GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 20/05/2012:
1. Financial Crisis DTF 3423 9kts
2. Cessna Citation DTL 23 7.7kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 44 7kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 45 7kts