Sailing: High pressure may force Volvo rivals into 1,000-mile detour

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The Independent Online

With the leading quartet of yachts in the Volvo Ocean Round the World Race passing the halfway mark of the first 6,400-mile leg from Vigo, in Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, the third-placed Neal McDonald, the skipper of Ericsson, warned yesterday that weather systems may force him to sail up to 1,000 miles more than the 3,200 which would be the direct route.

The yachts, still led by Mike Sanderson in ABN Amro 1, are sailing south, well west of the direct course, and parallel to the coast of South America as they skirt a huge weather system known as the South Atlantic high pressure zone, before deciding when to strike east for the welcoming sight of Table Mountain.

"We could point the boat straight at Cape Town and sail over 1,000 miles less," explained the navigator Steve Hayles, "but at slower speeds. We are managing risk, playing probabilities and trusting our pre-race analysis."

In the short term, Hayles also had to cope with his opposite number, Adrienne Cahalan, putting Torben Grael and Brasil 1 back into second place, seven miles ahead of him and 71 miles behind Sanderson, with Sébastien Josse on ABN 2 just four more miles astern. Cahalan said of his rivals: "They really have their skates on. It's going to be a tough one."

While the winds and seas of the trades are not expected to pose the same threat as the Atlantic gales which battered the fleet on the first night, this is the time when care has to be taken by the crews to avoid infections caused by the heat and humidity.

Still chasing the four ahead of them, Campbell Field, the navigator of Brunel Sunergy, the yacht which had to stop for repairs in Madeira, was in humourous mood. Despite being 994 miles behind ABN 1, Field described the willingness of a bloodthirsty crew to use multi-tool knives to extract a carbon fibre splinter from the foot of his watch leader Barney Walker.

"Eight came out with the speed of the fastest gun in the west," he said.

And, because the tropics were taking their toll, there was also an array of creams to be applied to various parts of the body either to avoid or clear up rashes, he added.

The solo sailor Dee Caffari covered 242 miles yesterday in the first 24 hours of her attempt to become the first woman to sail non-stop, single-handedly round the world the "wrong" way, - westabout - in the 70ft Aviva.