Global Ocean Race fleet across Leg 4 halfway point

Conrad Colman tries a bit of keel walking - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Cessna Citation
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on their 21st day at sea in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.

The double-handed Class40s have all crossed the halfway point of the 5,700 miles and the past seven days have been a mixture of frustration and relief as the fleet finally broke into the North-East Trade Winds.

Early in week three (16-22 April) the GOR fleet streamed across the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate at the eastern extremity of Brazil led by Cessna Citation and turned north-west, running parallel to the coast towards the Equator. Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough crossed 0 degrees on Monday, returning to the Northern Hemisphere after nearly seven months of racing and were first to find the North-Easterly Trade Winds having side-stepped the Doldrums.

As the main pack of the GOR fleet encountered adverse currents, squalls and randomly shifting wind off Brazil, Nico Budel and Erik van Vuuren pulled into Fortaleza on the Brazilian coast as Budel made the hard decision to return to the Netherlands for urgent business dealings, but Dutch yachtswoman, Yvonne Beuskers, joined the boat and Sec. Hayai restated racing late on Wednesday evening. With the Dutch team’s pit stop, the overall fleet spread increased and as the four boats reach north in the trade winds the distance between Cessna Citation and Sec. Hayai is 780 miles with the leaders approaching the latitude of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands and the Dutch team 340 miles off French Guiana.

However, the best speeds over Saturday and Sunday have been polled by Financial Crisis in second place with Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo and third-placed Phesheya-Racing as they sail parallel to the coast of Guyana and Suriname. This weekend has been full-on for the South African duo on Phesheya-Racing as Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire work through their entire sail wardrobe, hoisting their biggest, A2 spinnaker at sunset on Saturday: 'For this leg we changed our A2 to our oldest one as it has less of a foot, straighter luff and leach allowing us to reach up with it,' explained Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Sunday morning as the duo averaged over ten knots. 'Tonight has been very gusty with winds up to 24 knots and we can still carry this kite,' she adds. 'Nick is on the helm right now and his top boat speed has been 18 knots. Not bad!'

At 15:00 GMT on Sunday, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire were 300 miles off the coast and the scenery over their heads is changing noticeably as they work northwards: 'The sky is full of stars and as the clouds come and go we get a chance to see the northern stars,' Phillippa Hutton-Squire explains: 'We’re now at 8 degrees north and we’ve just sighted the Pole Star below the Big Dipper,' she reports. 'Behind us the Southern Cross is still visible.' However, the foul current is still a setback: 'It’s now at the worst we’ve seen it at 2.8 knots,' says the South African skipper. 'This means we have 2.5 to 3 knots of current against us, so instead of us doing 13 knots average, we’re doing ten or 11 knots average on the speed over the ground, which is very demoralising.'

Trailing Nannini and Frattaruolo by 174 miles on Sunday afternoon, the South Africans have opted to head closer to the Latin American continental shelf. 'We’ve come further west to escape the foul current and hopefully benefit from some stronger currents, but, so far, our strategy is not working! But we’ll keep trying to catch those Italians in front of us.'

On Sec. Hayai, Yvonne Beusker’s rapid learning curve is going well: 'Yvonne is fully up to speed,' reported Erik van Vuuren on Sunday afternoon. At 15:00 GMT on Sunday, the Dutch team was averaging just over nine knots and trailing the South Africans by 238 miles. 'We still have the nasty current against us, but under jib and with 18-19 knots of wind, the boat is steaming at 11 knots and smoothly cutting a way through the waves - like a warm knife through butter,' says Van Vuuren. 'A few sail changes today, but fortunately no drama or breakages for us.'

Currently sailing far from the usual cruising yacht territory, the Dutch duo have had a strange encounter via VHF Channel 16: 'Around here with not many vessels around us, the call had to be for us,' continues the Dutch skipper. 'We were in contact with another sailing yacht on the way from Cape Town to Grenada,' he explains. The two yachts traded weather information. 'Strangely, Yvonne was convinced that she recognised the voice and it quickly became clear that it was a couple from The Hague that she has sailed with! A needle in a huge haystack? You tell me.'

GOR leaderboard 22/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 1632 9.9kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 370 10.3kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 544 10.4kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 782 9.4kts

Global Ocean Race website