The crews on the top four yachts, in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06, are becoming anxious again, as they have less than 1000 nautical miles to go to the finish. The top placed yacht, ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson), is hoping for a steady breeze into the finish, whilst the yachts behind are praying for more fickle winds to allow them to catch up and possibly overhaul their rivals.
The big news of today is that Ericsson (Neal McDonald), at 00.45 GMT last night, had a failure occurring in their keel movement system. After a few minutes of work, Richard Mason managed to lock the keel in one safe position. They are now sailing with reduced capacity but are still managing an average of 14 knots toward the finish. Neal (McDonald) revealed exactly what happened on board this morning.
“We were reaching along at speeds of over 20 knots and quite pleased with ourselves, as we felt at last conditions had allowed us to make a come back at the Brazilians, as a pleasant evening’s sail quickly became a nightmare. A massive bang took us all by surprise, “what the hell was that?”
“I had been running the boat square down wind to slow the boat down for our survey (of the damage) and decided as we could not find any damage we’d come back to course. Coming up on to a reach the boat simply heeled over out of control practically capsizing! Immediately we all knew what was wrong.
“With the initial danger over I breathe a sigh of relief, then of course comes the awful realization that we can no longer race the boat hard. Any hope of catching the Brazilians has gone. Devastating. The guys are mortified. I guess we should all be pleased we are in one piece and in reasonable shape to get to Cape Town, albeit slower than we’d like, but it’s hard to see it in that manner right now. “
Onboard ABN AMRO ONE today, Crusty (Mark Christensen) explained, that as the days pile up on this leg, a ‘Groundhog Day’ situation is starting to occur. To spice things up though, they have been betting on the ETA (estimated time of arrival) to Cape Town, which will result in the winner receiving their jackpot and promptly having to buy drinks for the rest of the crew with it.
“What day are we up to? Day 14, 15? Who cares? What’s for lunch? Who cares and what does it matter anyway, it all tastes the same, (it doesn’t and some of the meals are quite good). The legs get broken down into sections, the start, the race for pecking order, where the positions are established and the opening moves of the navigators executed and then played out.
“Then the ‘Groundhog days’ where each day seems as the day before and the day after, boats try to pass the boats around them and gamble on bigger losses for bigger gains. The leader protects the side of the race course he wants and sometimes ‘spends’ a little lead to consolidate or increase his lead. Finally is the last 1000 miles, the race to the finish. If you are leading, you want nice steady breeze, probably a reach with no tacking or gybing. If you are behind you want the opposite.”
The crew on board Sunergy and Friends (Grant Wharington) seem to be having one of those “Groundhog Days” too, as navigator Campbell Field sarcastically wrote this morning.
“We have the same sails up, the same wind speed, same wind direction, same food, same conversations, same bad jokes from the same people, same same same same same same. The only change really is the temperature has dropped very slightly to a more liveable level.”
Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) is currently in third and 113 nautical miles behind ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse). The crew are pushing hard, with the aim of eating up some of the distance between the second boat and themselves but navigator, Adrienne Cahalan still had time to tell us about the wildlife surrounding them in the South Atlantic.
“Yesterday, near 34 30S 16W we saw some seabirds but up until then, the only birds we had seen were a couple of gulls near Fernando de Noronha. There were about three of them but, they did not come close to the boat, not like an albatross would do, to see what was going on onboard.
“But today near 34 34S 08 45W we saw a group of seabirds brown in colour the same as yesterday, which came closer to the boat. An albatross with brown wings and white underbelly also briefly flew close to the boat alone.”
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