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Australian Watch leader on Team Legato reports from Southern Ocean

by Barry Pickthall on 7 Mar 2001
Position: 50 16'S; 113 32'W / 43 23'; 51 42'W
Speed at time of satellite poll: 21.2knots / 13.3 knots
Average speed for last hour: 20.5 knots / 11.4 knots
Course: 75 Degrees / 13 Degrees
Distance covered over 24 hours: 432.1 miles / 300.8 miles
Distance between the two: +2,640 miles
TL Target 24 hour distance: 320 miles.
Mileage in the bank since 4th March: +202 miles

Paul Larson, TEAM LEGATO's Australian watch leader, provides a second diary entry on life onboard close to the one place on earth that remains the greatest distance from land in all directions.

After enduring ten frustrating days of calms, he writes:

'Thank God that's over.

When I started this voyage in reality a little over 2 years ago preparing to sail with Pete Goss on TEAM PHILIPS, I promised to tell my E-mail circle of friends what life would be like in the raw. It has certainly been that. The last 10 days of calms have corresponded to a deep dark dip in our track. But that is now blasting away behind us in fizzing wakes and great swirls of spray. Our car is on the up again at over 20 knots, the endless repetitive speculation and hair-pulling frustration that came with each slip-slop of the sails, now a long way astern.

Our problems began with the loss of our SATCOM B transceiver when it was washed off the back of the port hull by a big wave while approaching the South Island of New Zealand. We used this to download all our weather maps so that we can see exactly where the Highs and Lows are and what shape they are in.

We asked the Race Committee if we could replace it when passing through Cook Strait. They said it would take a couple of days, so we figured on not stopping, based on the fact that St James's Yachting, our weather routers back home, would be able to give us this information and more. Their interpretation sent over in text form would always be better informed that ours.

You have to remember that we didn't plan to stop in Wellington until the last minute, and even then only for a flying visit. And when we did stop, we still wanted to leave as soon as possible as a large windless High was approaching. Instead, we took a 60 hour pit-stop and got stuck like flies in honey - trapped in a High that simply followed us East. What winds there were, came from the south, blocking our route back down into the Southern Ocean. We were told where the best winds were, and it was up to us to best handle the conditions to get there. Time and again the door got shut as the fickle weather systems eluded us. What it says on the map in front of the weather router's eyes, isn't necessarily what we see in reality before our own.

The gap between our nearest competition, the Poles on Warta Polpharma, grew from 1,200 miles to 2,700 miles. If all now goes well for them, this lead will be insurmountable, but in the fickle world of yacht racing, perseverance is always rewarded. For all we know, they could yet find themselves in less than perfect conditions.

Sitting here now, with the cold Southern Ocean waters making a comforting roaring hiss through the hull just inches from my ear, we are beginning once more to reel them in. There is no time to be bitter and twisted. We just have to remind ourselves of the importance of the word TEAM. We have to re-group and focus on the problems ahead.

This week, another much older and more formidable foe entered the arena - TIME.

The first boat crossed the line on Saturday. Congratulations to the Club Med Team and a deserved win. They chose their team well, worked hard in their preparation and pushed hard all the way, showcasing the capabilities of this new generation of boats. Considering that they circumnavigated via the Mediterranean and Cook Strait, their time of 62 days is remarkable. In the next few years, other records will now tumble significantly.

What it means for us is that the deadline is now in place for TEAM LEGATO to finish. We have until April 2 to complete the remaining 9,500 miles. That's an average of 320 miles a day, or a little more than 13 knots. At the moment this is quite easily within our reach. But we can't afford another light weather spell like we just had.

The thought of not making it? Well it is far too early for that, and right now, I don't want to know about it. Cape Horn, now within 1,500 miles, is more immediate. I am looking forward to that. We all are. We still have some tricky systems to negotiate and there are two schools of thought on the boat. Despite our position, I still want to push the boat hard and to carry each sail configuration to the edge of its performance envelope. In the back of my mind is the possibility that we might lose by a scant couple of hundred miles or by miss the official finish by a day. Some of the older generation want to sail a little more conservatively believing that we well miss it all by a much larger margin if we blow everything to bits now. Tony has to make sense of it all, combining his wealth of experience and awareness. None of us want to say 'I told you so'.

We may now be down to only 6 crew, but our manoeuvres and sail changes are slicker than ever. The determination onboard is also at its strongest.

The next hurdle is Cape Horn on Saturday or Sunday when I will be able to regale you with tales of drinking our remaining bottle of Moet Champagne under a full moon while belting along at 30 knots in the mighty TEAM LEGATO. This will not only be a thrill for us - but one we will tirelessly relate to our grandchildren in years to come.'

Leading positions at 11:00 GMT today
1. Club Med - Finished Marseilles 19:56GMT 4.03.01
2. Innovation Explorer - Finished Marseilles 11:32GMT 6.03.01
3. Team Adventure +5,235 miles
4. Warta Polpharma +6,093 miles
5. Team Legato +8,733 miles
PlayStation - RETIRED 14.01.01

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