By Brian Hancock
It’s a bit of a dog fight at the front of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race. I mean dog fight in the nicest kind of way. Not two yapping spaniels having a go at each other in the dog park, but some serious racing. Let’s leave Marie Tabarly out of this for now – she and her crew are cooking with gas and leaving barely a trace in their wake. The dog fight is taking place well over a hundred miles astern of Pen Duick VI.
Out to the west you have the Finns on Spirit of Helsinki. You have to love them. They set a course and they are sticking to it and of course being Finns no one is going to talk them out it. They gave the Cape Verde Islands a very wide berth as if it was some kind of leper colony, but so far their strategy seems to be paying off. They are second in line honors and romping along at just under 10 knots. I know that this word is overused but it is champagne sailing even though I am sure that there is no champagne on board, but being Finns I bet that there is a small stash of vodka somewhere.
The next few days will be interesting because Maiden and Translated 9 have chosen a much more easterly route and on a distance-to-finish basis they are just 10 miles behind Spirit of Helsinki. Maiden being a whopping three miles ahead of Translated 9. The thing about all of this is that the boats are setting themselves up for the doldrums, or Pot-au-Noir as the French like to call that pesky region just north of the equator. It’s no wonder that the French have more fun than the rest of us. Pot-au-Noir means Black Pot, a perfect description for the region. The rest of us call it the Intertropical Convergence Zone; and if that isn’t bad enough we sometimes refer to it as the ITCZ. That sounds like a bit of dry toast for breakfast. Lets wait and see whose strategy works out in the next week or so.
I don’t want to forget the rest of the fleet but I see that two boats, Explorer and White Shadow. Both Swan 57s have either been reading my posts or just instinctively knew that Red Bull Alley was the way to tackle the group of islands named after a bird, The Canary Islands. They are taking advantage of the wind funneling between the islands and are getting a much needed boost.
Lest I cast my eye to the north, which I try not to, I still see the Fun-O-Meter winners on Godspeed still enjoying the fruits of Portugal. How long can it possibly take to repair a boom? I understand their pain; I once had a Portuguese girlfriend.