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The Race..Tough night aboard Club Med

by Mer & Media on 17 Feb 2001
Ever since Club Med entered The Race many strong
decisions have been made by that organisation. The first of which was to assemble a
strong team that would make up the crew to guide this ambitious project through the
short time available before the start of their non-stop round the world adventure. Club
Med chose to have an international crew that have worked really hard over the 10 months
since the project was launched, and certainly harder over the seven weeks spent at sea
so far.
Decisions made by the team, from as varied as what sails to build to what route to take,
have put the boat in the enviable position of leading The Race by more than 800 miles
today. But at the speeds that these new giant catamarans sail this distance represents
one and half to two days sailing, not a big lead in that context. As with all sailing
projects and all mechanised sports there is always a significant risk of a breakdown, and
a race is never over until the finish line is crossed.

Today Club Med is 5076 miles from the finish but sailing in some of the worst possible
conditions imaginable. Grant Dalton, who warned us about this part of the world a few
days ago, and really described it yesterday, again spoke to his shore team this morning:
'The last 24 hours have been Hell. Much worse than anticipated. The low that we had
passed by yesterday came right back over the top of us and gave us 40 knot headwinds
on top of this ridiculous sea.' 'We have lost a lot of distance to Innovation Explorer but
we don't care. All we want is to be delivered from this place. I always knew this would be
the toughest area but it has really vindicated all that I said about it. This has been the
worst day of The Race so far for Club Med.'

Conditions on board are extreme, with a violently pitching catamaran the crew are unable
to rest and are living with the stress of feeling their boat suffering in the seaway beneath
them: 'The boat rises up vertically and then falls into the deep hole behind each steep
wave. Normally in your bunk you lie feet forward to avoid banging your head against the
forward bulkhead. Well now it is the other way round. You have to sleep head forwards
so that when the boat climbs up a wave and becomes vertical you don't bang your head
on the bulkhead behind. No one has slept for at least 36 hours.' 'At one point in the
night, Mike Quilter was trying to phone Clouds (our weather router) and he couldn't even
dial the numbers on the phone: the boat was jumping around so much.'

The boat is suffering but the crew have so far managed to keep the speed under control
and the damage to a minimum: 'We are moving at about 8 knots and that is plenty fast
enough.' 'We haven't broken anything serious yet, only deck fittings, nothing that we
can't repair. But there are a lot of strange and unfamiliar noises coming from places we
aren't used to hearing noises from. This boat is working really hard.'

Multihulls and particular catamarans are really fast boats, but they do have their weak
points, skipper Dalton continued: 'Off the wind catamarans are great, but they do not
and never will go upwind. They are absolute dogs. The loads and shocks are just huge, it
is like cannon shots going off all around. At one point we seriously considered removing
all sails, stopping the boat and just waiting, we have to keep it really slow.'

On the stress and concern of the crew and skipper for handling the boat in these
conditions and getting out the other side to continue with The Race: 'I'm a professional
skipper and I am paid to worry. But this has been and continues to be a big worry.' 'If
you were silly you could end the whole race right here by sailing too fast. We have to be
really, really careful. Seamanship and survival are everything right no

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