Monday, December 10, 2007

Derek Hatfield has been busy and successful last 48 hours. Now he has another equipment failure!

Oh, what highs and lows in the Transat Ecover Bahia to Bretagne race! Even following online, I have felt the exuberance and dismay. Derek's Open 60, Spirit of Canada suffered numerous, critical equipment failures during numerous knockdowns when the autopilot misbehaved. Doggedly he fought back from the rear, and overtook Rich Wilson on Great American III. Then recently, kilometer by kilometer in a real battle of boatspeed and position he slowly but surely reigned in Dee Cafari on Aviva. Two other boats have dropped out after catastrophic failures but are safe. I watched with each position report as Derek would gain or lose a kilometer on Dee Cafari. Now, clear ahead, Derek has also suffered a failure which will greatly curtail boat speed. Read the entries below - Ralph:

Hello From Spirit of Canada (December 6th)

Today was a long day exiting from the doldrums and into wind, plenty
of wind. Most of the day the boat was upwind at 26kts True. Welcome
to the northern trades and then some. The air is much cooler tonight,
an indication of whats to come by next week. After all, we are only
weeks away from Christmas. What a strange feeling this is.

Position: 12 08 19N
030 52 023W
Speed 11.3 knts
Direction 009 degrees
Take Care

Hello from Spirit of Canada (December 8th)

It's been day three of banging and splashing our way upwind in 28 -
30kts. Who ever came up with the idea of an upwind race in Open 60's
was out to test the determination of the skippers for sure. Anyway I
feel that the trade winds are much stronger right now, probably
because we are going upwind at the moment. Not much opportunity for
passing anyone, AVIVA seems to keep her distance well no matter what
I do, most likely it will be a long procession up to France and the
finish line. The fastest boat in this weather pattern will depend on
how long the skipper can stay on deck while getting a fire hose
shower every 30 seconds, a very cold shower. It is like being back in
Canada in a car travelling through sleet and snow, sticking your head
out the window and getting showered. Inside the boat the movement is
so very much like being inside a washing machine, you must hold on
all the time as the boat lurches around so much, especially when you
are trying to get your gear on to go back out on deck. Sleeping is
almost impossible but it still does happen after getting so tired you
just lay down in the bilge, listening to the water rushing by just an
inch or so on the other side of the hull then every once in a while a
wave will hit the bottom of the boat and actually lift you up, truly

Take Care
Distance to finish: 2300nm

Hello from Spirit of Canada - 8th December 2007

Day four of the heavy upwind work, I must say it's getting tiring
always being over on the side all the time. I keep looking ahead for
Dee's stern light but not yet. She is doing a good job of keeping
ahead of me, it should be a great race to the finish for the two of
us. Sorry to hear about Safran's keel problems, I hope he can keep
the boat going to the finish line.

Take care,

Report from Spirit of Canada Shore Crew

As the racers make steady progress to the finish line in France it is
become evident from reading the reports of the skippers that all the
boats are sustaining equipment failure and that the Ecover BtoB has
become a race of management first and speed second, the goal being to
qualify the boats for the Vendee Globe. Derek has not been without
damage, last night he had to lower the outer forestay as the
hydraulic line that tensions the stay had been chafed through, not
sure what caused the initial fault, but for the rest of this race
Derek will be without his "high gear" so all the time spent getting
in front of Dee Caffari have now been wasted. Derek is not hurt and
he is continuing racing but his mood is down as his chance to move up
on the fleet in the coming days is all but gone.

Fleet Decision Time (report from Ecover BtoB)

At the approach to the Azores, the solo sailors in the Transat Ecover
BtoB have some decisions to make. The first is associated with which
course to adopt in a bid to negotiate the transition zone as best
they can and hook onto the downwind conditions, which are set to
accompany them as far as Port-la-Forêt. The choices will clearly
depend on the damage affecting a fleet still in its preparation
phase: race or fast delivery&

From the retirement of Mike Golding to the worries of Marc Guillemot,
Yann Elies, Jean-Baptiste Maisonneuve, Dee Caffari and even Loïck
Peyron the leader of the fleet, we imagine that there is a strong
temptation to ease off the pace. The finish isnt far away and for a
number of sailors it is out of the question to spoil their chances of
qualification for the Vendee Globe as a trade off for glory in this
race. As they await the SW'ly wind which should propel the fleet to
the finish at high speed, each of the skippers are trying to spare
their steeds, which have really been put through the mill in the
powerful tradewinds which have battered the Atlantic.

One thing is already certain: between the potential speeds displayed
by some, and the small technical issues observed aboard a number of
boats, the winter is going to be busy and a number of shore crews
will be impatient to see their skippers arrive safely in port.