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The Race..Team Innovation closing on leader

by Mer & Media on 25 Feb 2001
The rate at which the second placed boat Innovation Explorer is catching the leader in The Race is causing concern both at sea and ashore. At noon today Club Med was only 655 miles closer to the finish than her closest rival. But the lack of speed can not be attributed to gear failure or some other performance robbing problem on board, it is due to nothing other than light winds. The Trade Winds are present but are much softer than usual.

To the South of the Equator, where Loick Peyron's boat is, the winds are allowing him to sail at the kind of speeds that Grant Dalton and the crew of Club Med feel they should be moving at. Joined by satellite telephone this morning Club Med skipper Grant Dalton explained his feelings:

'My nerves aren't good. Things have got better for us in the last couple of hours but I have no fingernails left now. Innovation Explorer is doing so much damage to us, it is frightening'

When boats get too far apart they end up in completely different weather patterns allowing the size of the lead to change dramatically as one or the other boat sails at twice the speed of the opponent. Dalton sees the situation thus:

'We are being lifted up onto course now and we will be able to sail straight at the mark which is good, but we just don't have the wind strength to make the speed good. This has been a really expensive time for Club Med. Innovation Explorer has sailed smart, really smart, making big gains by trading in Easting for Northing, and at high speed. I don't think the Doldrums are going to be a big barrier for him. He'll have a similar situation to us going through there. When he gets out the other side and into the Trades, his angle will be straight away better than our angle was and he'll have less distance to sail again...'

The frustration is only doubly draining, because there is nothing for the Club Med crew to do but watch this virtual race:

'We've been incredibly slow. We aren't even at the Cape Verde Islands yet. That will be tomorrow. The depression is still there and we'll definitely pick it up on Monday, but again I think Innovation Explorer will get more out of it than us. This may have delayed our finishing Marseilles by a day. I am still looking at somewhere between the 2nd and 4th March.'

Conditions on board are not too bad, but in spite of the relative inactivity in sailing the boat in light and stable conditions upwind, the nervous stress is keeping it tiring for all the crew:

'I've been really tired lately because of the extra worry. I have just slept deeply on the standby watch, not a good sign. The motion of the boat is not great but it could be worse. It isn't wet but it isn't comfortable or straight forward, and for this level of discomfort we should really be sailing faster...'

Latest Positions, 11:00 GMT - 24/02/01:

1.Club Med - 2676.5 miles to finish
2.Innovation Explorer +655.0 miles to leader
3.Warta Polpharma +6283.7 miles
4.TeamAdventure +6309.3 miles
5.Team Legato +8018.4 miles

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