Phillippa Hutton-Squire helming at sunset at 45S – Photo Phesheya-Racing
After 29 days and 7,000 miles of racing through the high-latitudes of the Indian Ocean, the five, double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) Class40s are being severely tested as they approach the Leg 2 finish line in Wellington, New Zealand. At the head of the fleet, on race leader Cessna Citation, Kiwi yachtsman, Conrad Colman, and his British co-skipper, Sam Goodchild, escaped an area of light airs off the west coast of South Island on Wednesday evening GMT, only to run into strong headwinds and punishing seas along the continental shelf with under 200 miles to the finish. The second Kiwi team, Ross and Campbell Field on BSL, came to within 70 miles of Cessna Citation at 03:00 GMT on Thursday as they chase Colman and Goodchild along the coast.
In mid-fleet, the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in third on Campagne de France remained trapped in light airs 380 miles west of South Island showing brief bursts of speed before slowing down early evening on Wednesday. While Campagne de France suffered mid-Tasman Sea, the Italian-Spanish duo of Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon in fourth on Financial Crisis continued to poll the best speeds in the fleet, fast reaching in 25-30 knots of breeze despite the batten damage sustained on Wednesday and stealing an impressive haul of miles from Mabire and Merron. Meanwhile, the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in fifth place on Phesheya-Racing were dropping below 45S, running downwind in strong winds, sustaining batten damage in a crash gybe 120 miles south of Tasmania.
At 03:00 GMT on Thursday, after 20 days at the head of the GOR fleet, the event’s youngest team of 28 year-old Conrad Colman and 22 year-old Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, on their Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation, were undergoing an upwind pummelling as they beat towards Cape Farewell before turning east into Cook Strait towards the finish line in Wellington Harbour. However, the final 163 miles are looking tough. Shortly after midnight GMT, Sam Goodchild informed the GOR Race Organisation of conditions 50 miles off the coast, just south-west of the appropriately-named, Cape Foulwind: “We’re slamming upwind again, putting our Class40 through every condition it doesn’t like,” reported Goodchild. “Firstly drifting in little to no wind where trying to drag the wide rear end of our 40-foot boat is like an ocean plough, and now we’re going upwind in 25 knots and horrible, short and steep waves along the continental shelf where the depth goes from 700 metres to 150 metres deep in the space of a few miles,” he explains.
After 7,000 miles of pushing their new boat to the very limit and setting a new Class40 24-hour distance record, Colman and Goodchild are keeping everything crossed, hoping Cessna Citation doesn’t suffer any major damage or failure. “The boat is going airborne off every wave only to come crashing back down landing on its flat bottom,” describes Goodchild. “Inside, it’s almost deafening, like being on the inside of a drum, it makes you cringe, hoping the boat stays in one piece.” However, the sudden proximity of land is a novelty for the duo: “For the first time in four weeks we started to see signs of life today,” he continues. “Firstly we got mobile signal, only briefly as we passed 35 miles from the coast. We still couldn’t see New Zealand but as it was Vodafone NZ, I assume New Zealand is there somewhere,” reasons Goodchild. “Then shortly afterwards, we got caught by surprise by a close visit from a fishing boat…the only human activity we’ve seen since losing sight of the southern tip of Africa at the end of November.” Cessna Citation should round Cape Farewell at midnight (local) for the final, 100-mile passage along Cook Strait to the finish line.