Finally, a hint of the Trade Winds
11 April, 2012 | by Oliver Dewar
After nine days of upwind and offwind, stop-start racing since starting Leg 4 in Punta del Este, the Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet of Class40s are in touch with the South East Trade Winds in their ascent along the coast of Brazil.
Double-handed leaders, Conrad Colman and Scott Cavanough, were first to feel the fresh easterly breeze on their Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation late GMT on Tuesday at 18S and the increase in average speeds rippled south through the fleet with Marco Nannini and Sergio Frattaruolo on Financial Crisis simultaneously picking up the pace three hours later with the South African duo, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Phesheya-Racing in third, followed shortly afterwards by the Dutch duo of Nico Budel and Erik van Vuuren in fourth with Sec. Hayai.
Before the new breeze lit up the fleet, Colman and Cavanough had already built a lead of slightly over 100 miles against Financial Crisis and while Cessna Citation was averaging over seven knots at 15:00 GMT on Wednesday, increasing their lead by 30 miles over the Italian-Slovak team in the past 24 hours, the rest of the fleet have not been so fortunate and speeds have slumped once again to sub-five knots.
However, Nannini and Frattaruolo in second place kept the breeze long enough to pull away to 33 miles ahead of Phesheya-Racing and, furthest inshore just 13 miles off Ponta de Monsarás, the Dutch team on Sec. Hayai has been clinging onto Phesheya-Racing trailing the South Africans by 38 miles on Wednesday afternoon.
Until the new breeze arrived, the four Class40s had spent two days in light variable breeze as they crept north through the Brazilian oil fields with the intense heat building and sudden, strong gusts tormenting the teams. With autopilots unable to cope with the light breeze, there was no other option but to hand steer and suffer the sun: “The morning started with lots of rain washing the decks of the salt from sailing upwind this week,” wrote Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing. “The temperature dropped down during the rain for a few hours allowing us to get in some solid sleep,” reports the South African skipper. “However, the wind that we had was very gusty and tricky, so the one on watch was tacking or adjusting the sheets constantly to keep the boat on the move in the right direction.”
As Colman and Cavanough continue to make the best speeds on Cessna Citation, the three first generation Akilaria Class40s are spread over 71 miles along the Brazilian continental shelf and the South Africans can see only one option: “Now we are trying to make our way offshore, but every time we get a steady bit of breeze, it dies and shifts,” reports Phillippa Hutton-Squire. “So we are constantly monitoring our course and the sails, so it’s a bit like sailing a dinghy round the buoys at the moment! There are lots of big cumulus clouds around threatening rain and to steal our wind,” she explains. “It is important for us to get offshore now where the wind will hopefully be more steady away from the influence of the big hills and mountains here on the Brazilian coast.”
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 11/04/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 4123 7.8kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 130 4.7kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 163 4.9kts
4. Sec. Hayai DTL 201 4.8kts