At sea.. Transat tournaments Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 June 2004
Image: Wells Fargo - American Pioneer © DPPI

The twenty-nine Transat 2004 entrants yet to cross the Boston finish line have now been racing for a little under nine days. The punishing - but not unexpected - weather conditions have contributed to a total of five yachts abandoning the race. Statistics from the previous eleven Transat races suggested that seven or eight of the original thirty-nine entrants would fail to complete the course. So far, the average 26% figure representing the number of entries failing to cross the finish line, appears to be accurate (the calculation includes the pre-race withdrawals of Roland Jourdain's monohull, Sill, and her sister-ship, Bonduelle, skippered by Jean Le Cam).

Few, though, expected that the 60ft and 50ft monohull leaders would deliver such exceptionally close racing. Since the start of The Transat, race spectators have become accustomed to the outstanding, close-quarters combat of front-running 60ft monohulls Ecover (Mike Golding) and Pindar AlphaGraphics (Mike Sanderson). But a similar transatlantic tournament has developed between two American Open 50s - Artforms and Wells Fargo-American Pioneer. Today's 1100 GMT position poll shows that Kip Stone on Artforms has increased his lead ahead of Joe Harris and the seven-year-old, Group Finot designed Wells Fargo-American Pioneer.

Both skippers possess a wealth of racing experience and ocean-going knowledge, but The Transat is a milestone event for Stone and Harris. The pair have consistently added a fresh perspective to solo sailing and their enthusiasm is infectious. Yesterday, Kip Stone described how the staysail halyard on Artforms failed, forcing him to de-power the 50ft monohull and effect repairs. This event - fused with his yacht dragging some debris on one of her rudders - assisted Harris' high speed gains and Artforms skipper admitted: "I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what's going to happen next."

Only 7.1 miles behind Stone, Joe Harris and Wells Fargo-American Pioneer are sailing just 1 mile further to the north off Artform's starboard quarter. Harris has unceasingly pushed himself and his monohull to the limit, snatching sleep at the chart table rather than occupying one of the yacht's pipe cots while explaining that high adrenalin levels prevent him from sleeping: "We've been sailing the hairy edge for over a day now. It's been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time."

The two Open 50s are now 140 miles from the eastern edge of the Grand Banks and will soon encounter the fog, fishing boats and commercial shipping associated with this area. Neither Stone nor Harris have shown any indication that they will allow these hazards to interrupt their skirmish

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Offshore Challenges Event.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 June 2004 )
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