28 October 2011
The Fields and BSL take first place in GOR Leg 1
At 05:13:25 GMT on Friday 28 October, Ross and Campbell Field took first place in Leg 1 of the double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race (GOR) crossing the finish line in Cape Town after 32 days 17 hours 13 minutes and 25 seconds and 7,300 miles of racing from Palma, Mallorca, on their Verdier-design Class40 BSL averaging 9.3 knots and finishing 89 miles ahead of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France.
Following a final sail change off Lion’s Head, swapping from spinnaker to jib, BSL beat on port tack passed Signal Hill and across the finish line off Cape Town shortly after sunrise. GOR Race Organisation officials boarded the Class40 to congratulate the duo and check that the engine seals installed pre-start were in place before the Fields dropped their sails and motored into Victoria Basin, through Alfred Basin and into the GOR Race Base at North Wharf in the V&A Waterfront Marina.
Clearly exhausted, showing signs of significant weight-loss, but on characteristically good form, Ross and Campbell Field admitted that they had little left to give: “We’re absolutely stuffed, I’ll be honest,” said Ross shortly after berthing at North Wharf. “It’s all due to Halvard and Miranda as they’re clever sailors and know where to position their boat,” he continues. “We knew that we’d have a chance to peg them back once we got into the Southern Hemisphere and the reaching conditions suited our boat, but we had to push really hard – it’s absolutely crucial. If you don’t push 120 per cent, you’re gone and – fortunately – Campbell did excellent work on the weather.” Campbell Field reckons that if Campagne de France had extended over 40 miles ahead, the door would have shut: “There’s always more pressure when you’re chasing,” he believes. “At times we were hanging on by our fingernails.”
Prior to the delivering the boat to the GOR start in Palma from Lymington on the South Coast of England, the Fields had raced BSL once in the Rolex Fastnet Race and GOR Leg 1 was an eye-opener for two highly-experienced sailors, but newcomers to Class40: “It’s a really startling boat, quite amazing,” says Ross. “Sometimes, it just kept going faster and faster and you had to wonder when the limit would be reached.” There was one major crash that the duo will always remember when they feared the mast would be lost, but there is no major damage. “The boat is immensely strong and the only breakage has been due to our errors,” confirms Campbell. “Nothing has failed on board.”
Other than work on the sails and strengthening up some pieces on the boat, there’s little preparation before the start of Leg 2 to Wellington, New Zealand, on Sunday 27 November. “The main objective is getting some rest,” he continues. “We were getting weaker and weaker and although our muscles weren’t atrophying, we just had less and less strength.” Despite the fatigue and potential recovery time, there are no regrets: “It’s just a fantastic event and a brilliant concept,” adds Ross of his sixth circumnavigation race. “It’s disappointing that boats pulled out just before the start, but they’re missing out on the best sailing in the world and we’re loving it!”
27 November 2011
GOR start reset for Tuesday
Just as the Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) Race Committee made the decision on Friday to postpone Sunday’s Leg 2 start in Cape Town due to a forecast of strong headwinds, news arrived at the GOR HQ in the V&A Waterfront Marina of keel problems with one of the fleet’s double-handed Class40s.
Since arriving in Cape Town 20 days ago after 42 days of racing in GOR Leg 1, Nico Budel, joined by his son, Frans Budel, for Leg 2, have been working on their three year-old, first generation Akilaria, Sec. Hayai. On Friday morning, Frans Budel checked the Class40’s keel bolts and discovered that both of the keel-head bolts had failed completely – an unhappy development since the mandatory keel inspection earlier this year enforced by the GOR Race Committee.
With 7,500 miles of the Indian Ocean’s high latitudes and around one month of hard racing ahead of the Budels, only a 100 per cent-effective repair was acceptable before the Class40 could cross the Cape Town Leg 2 start line and head for Wellington, New Zealand. Allowing Sec. Hayai to start later than the main fleet risked isolating the Dutch team and - should Sec. Hayai encounter problems mid-Leg 2 - made the option of a swift rescue by another GOR Class40 less practical.
The start delay due to strong winds had bought the Dutch duo some extra time, but the pressure was now on 72 year-old Nico Budel and his 41 year-old son, Frans, to co-ordinate and complete the complex repair in record time. As word of the Sec. Hayai-problem filtered around the V&A Waterfront Marina, the offers of assistance were instantaneous: The V&A’s Harbour Master, Steven Bentley; Craig Garrow of Pronto Clearing – the Cape Town co-ordinator of GOR logistics for GOR Race Partner, Peters & May – and Richard Svensson, managing the onshore logistics for the Volvo Ocean Race’s impressive set-up at the V&A, joined forces to find an immediate solution.
2 December 2011
Personal limits and private fears
Plummeting into the high latitudes, the five double-handed Class40s in the Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) ran into light winds at 38 degrees South, 200 miles below Africa, and spent Thursday night waiting for the westerly winds to arrive. Spread over 100 miles east-west and averaging below five knots, the ten sailors regrouped, repaired and drew breath after a tough, 72-hour introduction to Leg 2.
At 08:00 GMT on Thursday, Conrad Colman and Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, ceased their flyer to the east on Cessna Citation having built a 43-mile lead over the fleet, tacking onto port and dropping south. The maverick strategy of splitting from the main pack was high-risk: “It’s pretty fragile as our route east has cost us miles south and that’s where the new wind is coming from,” reported Colman on Thursday night. “I hope our option will pay as we're still faster than the others despite the sea state.”
Colman is unlikely to have time to celebrate his 28th birthday today as the fleet recover from negotiating the shallow and turbulent water over the southern tip of the Agulhas Bank stretching south of the African continent: “It’s pretty bloody bouncy out here and the entire boat is sopping wet already,” he explains. “We're happy with our progress, but aren't sure about how best to get through this little ridge of light winds just to our south.” At 06:00 GMT on Friday, Colman and Goodchild’s lead had dropped to 21 miles over Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in second place on Campagne de France with Ross and Campbell Field in third on BSL just 13 miles behind the Franco-British duo with both boats picking up speed to the south as they dug into westerly breeze.
4 December 2011
Skating along the Indian Ocean ice limit
Since the Leg 2 start of the double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) in Cape Town last Tuesday, the fleet have hammered through headwinds around Cape Agulhas at the southern tip of Africa and dropped south sharply towards the GOR’s 2,000-mile long, Western Indian Ocean ice limit at 42 degrees South. With the fleet reduced to five Class40s following the dismasting of Nico and Frans Budels’ Class40 Sec. Hayai, the leading trio of boats – Cessna Citation, BSL and Campagne de France - have kept close formation, trading pole position consistently, with separation building between the front pack and the two first generation Akilarias, Phesheya-Racing and Financial Crisis.
On Thursday night, the entire fleet crossed a windless patch, slowing dramatically, but the worst casualties were Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon with Financial Crisis who were forced to head west briefly, developing a 117-mile deficit to the lead boat, but recovering and keeping pace with Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing in fourth. By Friday afternoon, the GOR fleet was fast reaching 135 miles north of the ice limit in powerful breeze of 25-30 knots with gusts of 45 knots, hurling the Class40s east at pace in punishing sea conditions.
Throughout Friday afternoon, Conrad Colman and the Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, led the fleet with Cessna Citation, celebrating Colman’s 28th birthday with averages of over 14 knots and a lead of ten miles over Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in second on Campagne de France. Colman and Goodchild handed over the lead to Mabire and Merron early the following morning with the New Zealand father-and-son duo of Ross and Campbell Field snatching the lead with BSL at 08:00 GMT on Saturday as the breeze swung to the west and the Field’s gybed deeper south. Later on Saturday, Colman and Goodchild once again regained pole position on Cessna Citation with the front trio separated by less than 13 miles after four days of racing.
By dawn on Sunday, the Fields were furthest south with BSL, skating along the southern limit in third place. Currently on his sixth circumnavigation race, any familiarity Ross Field may have with the Indian Ocean is relatively meaningless: “While bashing upwind in 25-30 knots of wind, big confused seas, cold, bashing and crashing so much one would wonder when the boat will break, every bone and muscle aching from being thrown around - we both said 'why the f*** do we do this?’,” he reports. “I do question my sanity sometimes when it’s like this. Why do we do it? I look at this bad part as a bad day at the office - I would rather be out here having a bad day than in an office. Does it make sense?”
10 December 2011
Gunning for the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate
The double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) leaders are at full pace, closing in on the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild on the Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation, are blasting ahead in first place, just a handful of miles from the scoring gate, consistently averaging over 14 knots despite halyard issues and increasing their lead over Campagne de France and BSL. Further north and trailing the leading trio by 366 miles at 15:00 GMT on Saturday, Financial Crisis and Phesheya-Racing have locked down as the cold front sweeping eastwards pounces on the two Class40s.
On Phesheya-Racing in fifth place, the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire have been watching the cold front approach and are expecting a sudden, strong, icy blast of wind from the south: “How can we even begin to prepare ourselves for this, one might ask?” says Hutton-Squire. “Well, we’ve been getting as much sleep as possible, eating, securing and stacking everything down below,” she reports. “Most importantly, we’ve been keeping a careful watch on the weather and how the low has been moving. This is crucial as we don’t want to have too much wind that we can’t handle and we have to be careful and look after the boat. We are not even half way round the world yet, so we need to sail in winds that we can cope with.”
Further east in fourth place and marginally north of the South Africans, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon were averaging just under ten knots on Financial Crisis and keeping ahead of the front on Saturday morning: “The cold front is about to reach us and behind us I can see broken clouds and some blue sky here and there,” reported Nannini at noon GMT on Saturday. “It rained earlier and the wind has kept on backing,” he adds, noting the early physical signs of impending strong breeze. “However, as we are sailing relatively fast in the same direction as the front, it is taking forever to overtake us.” While Nannini and Ramon are currently 29 miles ahead of Phesheya-Racing, the leaders further south are pulling away from Financial Crisis. “The front runners, who kept in a belt with more wind, may be able to stay ahead of the front for some time and still clock a tremendous amount of miles,” confirms the Italian skipper. “For us, the game is different; we’re too far back to play the same route and we’ll be pushed to stay further north to avoid a high pressure that would swallow us in a few days,” he adds, breaking away from his forecasting and looking out of the companionway hatch: “I can see sunshine breaking through the clouds! The front will be over us any moment I guess!”
Conrad Colman and Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, have been leading the fleet uninterrupted with Cessna Citation since Friday afternoon, averaging 13, then 14 and 14 knots-plus, building a lead of 30 miles over Campagne de France at 15:00 GMT despite an action-packed Friday night. “Things here got a little spicy last night,” reported Colman on Saturday morning. “The fractional 2:1 halyard chafed through in the dark, but we recovered the Code 5 without damage.”