Team Stelmar has extended their lead by 5nm today, edging ahead as the fleet races downwind at an average of 9 knots. 48 hours ago SAIC La Jolla were enjoying a lead of 25nm and the 9 yachts placed 2nd to 10th were only 4nm apart in terms of distance to finish.
Now SAIC La Jolla is in second and only 3nm ahead of third place Imagine It. Done. who have moved steadily through the fleet from eighth place four days ago to third place this afternoon. But Dee Caffari and her crew are in a similar predicament as SAIC La Jolla because Me to You is just 1nm behind them, challenging their hold on a podium position.
The whole fleet is still only separated by 46nm and this being the penultimate opportunity to rack up points on the overall leaderboard, every mile won or lost will be getting increasingly poignant for skippers and crews.
Eero Lehtinen and his crew aboard SAIC La Jolla will be particularly concerned about the weather over the next 24 hours. Since this morning’s position report they have maintained an average speed in line with the rest of the fleet at just over 9 knots, but the wind looks set to favour teams to the north.
“The pressure is on,” wrote Jim Walker from SAIC La Jolla this afternoon, “we have watched the rest of the fleet make gains on us since rounding Waypoint Charlie on Saturday. Their northerly position has seen better winds and a poor angle and a southeasterly flowing current has kept us from getting up to cover them. With the new wind coming in shortly we should have more options open to us, until then we can only maximise the VMG and try to limit the damage.”
In fact, they are not the only team to suffer – speeds across the fleet have been slowly dropping off, making the wet conditions more frustrating according to Team Stelmar skipper Clive Cosby: “The wind has eased considerably and we are getting rained on in a big way. We did not mind when clocking up 11 knots down the line now at 8 it is more uncomfortable.
“Now is the time of transition to the next weather pattern,” continued Clive, “as an oddly shaped high-pressure system will give northerlies backing to the west … things [are] looking good for us, between SAIC La Jolla to the southeast with less wind closer to the high, and BG SPIRIT leading the pack to the left closer to the lighter stuff trailing the front.”
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