Wellington (New Zealand), transit port for The Race.
This morning at dawn, just when the giant catamaran Team Adventure was casting off, Team Legato, the catamaran of Briton Tony Bullimore, appeared in the harbour entrance, sails furled and all set to observe a 60 hour penalty.
But this will be small comfort for Roman Paszke and his Poles on Warta-Polpharma who were worried for a time about the lightning comeback of the Briton; Cam Lewis is off again with the bit between his teeth and the speedometer at 27 knots! The objective is to reach Marseilles before the Poles, with all the panache that the 9 “survivors” of the crew are capable of.
The head of the race is a long way off. Club Med is surfing in the Southeast trade winds off Salvador da Bahia and Innovation Explorer, still hanging on as hard as ever, is confronted with the Saint Helena high in the heart of the South Atlantic.
Having set off to the East three days ago to circle a cell of high pressure off Argentina, Loïck Peyron is now confronted with the Saint Helena high. This vast area of calms is slowly drifting off to the East, certainly too slowly for the tastes of Roger Nilson, Loïck Peyron’s collusive navigator who hoped to be able to escape the calms by fleeing along the Western edge of the ridge, even if it meant beating into light airs.
On port tack, Innovation is climbing up the Atlantic on a Northeast heading, increasing her difference in terms of longitude with Club Med, which stands at almost 450 miles this morning. Peyron is waiting for the wind shift. How long will it need for the wind to rotate first to the Northwest, then to North and finally to the East?
The dozen knots of wind that are blowing today in Innovation’s path are at least enabling them to progress towards the mark, in clement conditions, just right for a spring clean and thorough check-up of the boat. You may recall the breakage of the end of the catamaran’s starboard daggerboard, well the crew discovered some indirect consequences today; a leak in the aft ballast tank, obliging Loïck’s men to bail out almost 100 litres of water every 3 hours. In the nail biting wait to see whether they will become engulfed in the calms or not, Peyron and his men are hanging on to the hope that their Easterly option will pay off just as Club Med falls into the grips of the Doldrums.
There’s a “Club Med” atmosphere aboard Club Med. “Beautiful sunshine, fair skins beware!” announced Yann Dekker. Could the proximity of Salvador da Bahia be inciting Grant Dalton’s men to take it easy? Or perhaps it’s rather the Southeast trades, blowing (too) moderately in Club Med’s mainsail and the solent, generating insufficient speed (15 knots) to make the adrenaline flow! The big blue cat is pursuing her nice straight course 300 miles off Brazil, heading for the next “level crossing” of The Race; the Doldrums. Repaired and consolidated, but a little more weakened from a human point of view with the defection of the young Breton Yann Eliès, Team Adventure threw herself hungrily back into the fray to attack the Pacific. Surfing along the edges of two conflicting systems, one of high pressure filling to the West of New Zealand, and the other of low pressure, and very active around 60° South, Cam Lewis’s big catamaran is diving deep down South at full speed towards the strong Westerlies. A nice “motorway” is waiting for them down there; 35 knots, 40 knots or even more, and blowing in the right direction! Pure nectar for this devourer of open spaces!
Warta-Polpharma on her Northeasterly route is 400 miles away and is continuing to prefer the medium winds that are providing her with decent speed and comfort. The Pole is defiant; “We have no intention of giving up our third place so lightly” said Dariusz Drapella, navigator aboard Warta-Polpharma. Reassured about the condition of his main beam, Cam Lewis must once again reorganise his watch system. When they left Barcelona on December 31, t