Vento di Sardegna out in front
The front runners of OSTAR 2013, the solo trans-Atlantic from Plymouth to Newport RI, are racing in the cool and shallow Canadian continental shelf waters after 14 days of open ocean.
Andrea Mura was able to extend his lead to about 150 miles on Sunday night as the tropical storm 'Andrea' passed over his 50ft monohull Vento di Sardegna while the trimaran Branec, skippered by Roger Langevin, was effectively hove to on starboard tack for a few hours 35 miles off Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, in a strong to gale force southwesterly.
Race leader Vento di Sardegna passed to the north of Sable Island early on Tuesday. The name gives a clue to the constituents of this very low uninhabited bank lurking 90 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia which has trapped many a ship in the past. Mura may have had a glimpse of the drilling rig Deep Panuke that is working to the west of the island. Rig supply ships and fishing boats will present an extra hazard to the coastal shipping in this area which is renowned for its poor visibility. Sea temperature here is about 12° and the air temperature is 10° on Banquereau Banks buoy today.
Comparing the fleet's progress at the end of 14 days to the 2009 front runners gives a clue to the tough conditions they are facing this year; back in 2009 La Promesse was just 526 miles from the finish against Vento's 669 miles to go although a fast final sprint looks possible. In the 32ft boats Hannah White in her Figaro Pure Solo was at 858 distant compared with Richard Lett in Pathway to Children at 1164 miles.
The absence of icebergs to the south of Newfoundland this season has encouraged all the boats to take a more northerly track but the saving in distance has not been enough to compensate for the less favourable winds. The south westerly breeze looks to be set in for a few days and a lot of tacking is in prospect.
Homeward bound American sailor Jonathan Green racing Jereboam, an Oceanis 351, is leading the Jester class with 955 miles to go and Geoff Alcorn last man standing in the Eira class has a daunting 1710 miles remaining. Swiss sailor Ralph Villiger in the venerable Ntombifuti has restarted after a brief pit stop in Brest and is catching up fast with 1952 miles to go on his lonely vacation.
Spare a thought for Jac Sandberg in the smallest boat in the fleet, the 30ft Spirit, currently laying fourth on the water. His track has taken him to the most northerly of the fleet at 50°N a few days ago and you don't want to be up there as we all know what happens at 50°N and 40°W*. Jac is enduring the coldest conditions with sea temperature of 7° and although the air is 6° with the wind chill it feels like two, add a bit of fog or drizzle and you have the full set for Dutch ambrosia. Jac's boat Spirit has a nice cuddy, but no spray-hood, so no doubt his time spent in the cockpit will be brief.
Several boats are experiencing electrical problems and are having to resort to back up pilot systems and hand steering with limited amps available for the computers which is why less reports are coming back from the boats. Jac has been bragging about the efficiency of his methanol-consuming Fuel Cell Systems, but of course it does not generate any heat to warm the tiny cabin. Richard Lett has enjoyed a few hours of Eberspsacher heater to dry his socks and raise morale, but it remains to be seen if he has enough fuel to repeat this luxury too often. Charles Emmett on British Beagle has charging efficiency issues and reports fuel rationing while Mervyn Wheatley is at the helm of Tamarind and considered heading for St Johns 320 miles distant to repair the pilot. Nico Budel has ordered a mini USB cable from Amazon to re-charge his tracker battery, but delivery may not be quick enough to get the Class 40 sec Hayai back on the chart.
The leaders may be planning their final days at sea but the bulk of the fleet have the most taxing period of the race yet to come with poor visibilty, light head winds and increasing ship traffic to contend with. Sails and gear will be showing wear and tear and the bighting cold will sap any enthusiam for deck work. There is still a very long way to go and thirty days is a respectable time.
* As Rudyard Kipling wrote;
WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
You're "Fifty North and Forty West!"