Global Ocean Race Class40s head deep into North Atlantic

Nick Leggatt gets busy repairing the Solent headsail - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Phesheya Racing
Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on the fifth day of racing from Charleston.

The Class40s are out of the Gulf Stream and heading deeper into the North Atlantic led by Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough with Cessna Citation holding an eight mile lead over Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo on Financial Crisis in second place – an 11-mile gain in 24 hours by the Italian-Slovak pursuers. Trailing Financial Crisis by 91 miles at 15:00 GMT on Thursday, Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt in third with the South African Class40 Phesheya-Racing have increased their separation over Nico and Frans Budel on Sec. Hayai following a tack north by the Dutch duo which took the team into light airs.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Budels were polling the best speed averages in the fleet and the duo were totally focussed: 'I don’t even know what day of the week it is as our life is now completely dominated on the position schedules,' said Frans Budel of the three-hourly updates. 'It’s been a good day so far and we picked up some stable, ten-knot breeze, but where it has come from we have no idea as it doesn’t appear on the GRIB files and we are jumping from cloud to cloud to make the most of it,' he reported.

However, at 16:00 on Wednesday, the distrust of the downloaded weather files led to a tack: 'Navigation has become a real gamble right now. Should we go right, left, or keep going straight?' wondered Frans Budel. 'For now, we’re going to stick with the benefits of the Gulf Stream and keep in the current, so we’ve tacked north, but I don’t know yet how long we’ll stick with it.' By early Thursday morning after nine hours heading north, speeds on Sec. Hayai were sub-four knots and the Dutch duo tacked again, heading away from the windless wall at 37N.

On Thursday afternoon, Frans Budel was back in contact: 'Our idea of going north yesterday wasn’t the best,' he admits. 'We lost many miles and hopefully we can win them back somewhere,' he adds of the loss of 54 miles to Phesheya-Racing. 'The wind is so variable and the weather files change so often that it’s like feeding money into a casino’s one-armed bandit and our gambling hasn’t had any luck so far!' says Budel. 'We’ve just got to wait for better wind and hope the fleet doesn’t sail away from us.'

For the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing, leaving the Gulf Stream was a relief: 'Last night we sailed out of the main core of the Gulf Stream and were instantly rewarded with flatter seas and more pleasant sailing conditions, though with the disadvantage of much less favourable current,' reported Nick Leggatt on Thursday morning. With conditions improving Leggatt and Hutton-Squire have been busy logging observations: 'If the Southern Ocean was the sea of Albatrosses, then the North Atlantic is definitely the sea of ships with no fewer than eight appearing on the AIS during the day, and a few of those passing within just a handful of miles of us,' notes Leggatt.

While wildlife has been scarce, Phesheya-Racing has been sailing through immense amounts of floating debris: 'The North Atlantic is unfortunately also the garbage dump of modern Europe and North America,' Leggatt continues, logging the data as part of the team’s involvement with the GOR’s programme involving the Environmental Investigation Agency. 'Today we passed an interesting collection floating plastic, drifting buoys, bags and so on,' he comments.

Averaging six knots on Thursday afternoon in flat water, Leggatt is installed forward of the main bulkhead: 'We’ve started to make a concerted effort to repair the Solent jib, which we tore on day one of this leg, but it is proving to be a mammoth task,' he confirms. Although the sail is made of Carbon and Twaron fibres inside a Mylar and Dacron taffeta, the sail has suffered after its trip around the planet: 'Hours of hard use and UV degradation have caused it to start delaminating and a violent pounding over a steep wave finally split it along the leech,' Leggatt explains.

To make the repair strong, drying, cleaning and sticking it together with Dacron adhesive tape must be done carefully. 'It is very time consuming and we are not sure how effective it will be, but we are persevering and hope that the sail will be usable when we really need it most,' says the South African skipper. However, with weather files predicting light winds for the entire fleet over the next 24-30 hours, there should be time for Leggatt and Hutton-Squire to complete delicate sail repair work before life in the forepeak becomes unmanageable.

GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 25/5/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 2765 8.2kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 8 8kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 100 6kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 167 7kts

Global Ocean Race website