Global Ocean Race leaders pick up speed

Erik van Vuuren lets the autopilot run the show for a while - Global Ocean Race 2011-12
Sec. Hayai
The Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) fleet are on their 29th day of racing in Leg 4 from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Charleston, USA.

At 15:00 GMT on Monday, the GOR fleet leaders Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough on Cessna Citation were gradually picking up speed with less than 100 miles to the finish line in Charleston as the main trio of Class40s dig into the Gulf Stream.

Leading the pursuing pack in second place, Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo on Financial Crisis held a 62-mile lead over the South African duo on Phesheya-Racing – a gain of around 20 miles since Sunday afternoon - and were averaging the best speed in the fleet at 10.5 knots on Monday. 'We’re pleased with how things have gone in the past two days after the tactical move to cover Phesheya,' confirmed Nannini on Monday morning. 'We now feel a little more in control of our destiny,' he adds.

However, with weather files predicting a loss of wind, the remaining 215 miles could present a fresh set of tactical options: 'The wind is progressively decreasing, so we hope the finale won’t be too much of a light winds struggle,' says Nannini. At 15:00 GMT on Wednesday, Nannini and Frattaruolo were 106 miles NE of Grand Bahama and 200 miles off the east coast of Florida. 'We're heading north-west, a little left of the direct route, in anticipation of the rotation of the wind and hoping to find the favourable flow of the Gulf Stream to help us run fast along the American coast,' he explains.

Meanwhile, on Phesheya-Racing, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire had slowed to just under seven knots on Monday afternoon with their speed averages dropping gradually from over ten knots earlier in the morning. 'We’ve caught up 125 miles on Cessna and 131 on Financial Crisis,' reported Hutton-Squire on Monday morning, but the pressure from Van Vuuren and Beusker in fourth place is relentless. 'We’ve lost 165 miles to Sec Hayai due to their incredible speeds and they have shadowed us like our reflection on the water.'

On Monday afternoon, the Dutch duo of Erik van Vuuren and Yvonne Beusker on Sec. Hayai continued to close in on Phesheya-Racing taking an extra 30 miles from their lead in 24 hours and trailing the South Africans by 56 miles on Monday afternoon. While Leggatt and Hutton-Squire keep a close eye on the Dutch, progress is still slowed by repeated entanglement with weed: 'We sailed into a field of Sargasso Weed slowing the boat, clogging the hydrogenerator and jamming the rudders,' says Hutton-Squire. Putting on head torches, the duo investigated the extent of the entrapment. 'We pulled the hydrogenerator up and found that the prop was jammed with weed,' she explains. 'In the dark, Nick leant over the back of the boat with the boat hook to try and free the weed and this is when he discovered a fishing net caught in the weed.'

At sunrise, Leggatt and Hutton-Squire could get a better idea of the extent of the weed they were trailing: 'I sailed dead downwind, slowing the boat and Nick was able to check the rudders and clear more weed,' continues Hutton-Squire. 'We checked the keel through the peep hole in the hull next to the chart table and discovered more weed, but we decided that it wasn’t enough weed to stop the boat for.'

GOR leaderboard 15:00 GMT 30/4/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 91.7 6.1kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 215 10.5kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 277 6.7kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 333 9.4kts

Global Ocean Race website