By Brian Hancock
L’Esprit d’équipe (as she was named when I raced against her in the 85/86 Whitbread Round the World Race), was formerly known as 33 Export in the 77/78 Whitbread back when I was still trying to learn how to put on socks, and also Esprit de Liberté. The yacht has pedigree and beautiful lines. She was designed by the extremely talented naval architect Philippe Briand. In case you haven’t figured it out, he’s French. The boat, under skipper Lionel Péan won the 85/86 version of the Whitbread Round the World Race.
I bring this up now because they have been a bit of a dark horse in this race but there is probably a no more talented and experience skipper in the race. Lionel (funny that he should share a name with the former winner) Régnier has done many extreme offshore races including the Transat Jacques Vabre, a double-handed race across the Atlantic, and the Mini-Transat, which is only for the insane. You have to race across the Atlantic in a 21-foot (6.5 metre) boat; and make it to the other side in one piece. It takes courage and talent to even think of entering, let alone finishing.
I bring this up now because they are stalking Spirit of Helsinki as the leading pack are facing some strange weather. Strange for the Southern Ocean, that is. A light patch of headwinds. Ask the crew on Maiden. They have taken a left hand turn to get away from the worst of it but they are facing headwinds right now, but things will change (they always do, ask my ex-wives) and if skipper Heather Thomas gets it right, they may be able to hook into some favorable wind from the north as they head for the 45 degree south waypoint.
All of the boats are in fairly decent weather (for the Southern Ocean that it) including Sterna and Explorer who are diving south to find more wind. Unfortunately for them there are some potholes along the way and a big low pressure system creeping up from behind, like the proverbial boogeyman. They will soon be able to hitch a ride to the good stuff and outrun the boogeyman, or at least what it has to offer to their advantage. Isn’t sailboat racing fun?
The team on Pen Duick VI, led masterfully by Marie Tabarly, are really legging it out. They are experiencing light headwinds for now and the winds will continue to be light to moderate. This may be the time to break out the second package of fois gras before things get gnarly again. Remember that the fleet have to sail all the way under Australia before they can get to New Zealand. There can be some less than pleasant sailing in those waters. I speak from experience and have the scars to prove it.
Do any of you know what a Chinese Gybe is? And before you get on my case about ethnic issues, that’s what it’s called. By the way Don’s lovely wife Jane is from China so I wouldn’t ever make a negative comment, but that’s what it’s called and has been since I started sailing and probably long before. I will explain tomorrow. For now I am looking for some turkey leftovers and wishing that it was still Thanksgiving so I would have a reason for another spicy bloody mary. My wife, Sally, by the way, takes hers off the Scoville scale when it comes to spicy. I guess that’s why she is so spicy, and hot.
Wishing all the sailors in the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race safe sailing. Take some time to marvel at those beautiful albatross.