Sailing: Maxi pack leader aims to reel in the 60s: Grant Dalton (left), heading his class on board NZ Endeavour, continues his captain's log for the Independent on the Whitbread Round the World Race

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WITH about 1,000 miles remaining to Cape Horn, the last couple of days have been good in some ways, frustrating in others. Overall, the pace of this leg has been very fast, with a daily average of about 320 miles, but this has been falling during a period of patchy, light winds.

And while we are happy to have put a good cushion between ourselves and the second maxi, Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup, we have not been able to reel in the trio of leading 60s. I have been saying for two and a half years that they are quicker, and nothing has changed, but we still want to beat them and we still want to be the boat with the fastest time of the fleet of 14 - maxis and 60s - for the whole race.

While we are battling with the elements, the organisation ashore is operating smoothly, we hope, to see that everything is in place for our arrival in Uruguay.

The container we used in Punta del Este last time is still there, the Fremantle and Auckland container is on its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we have steadily been compiling a list of things we will need, so the team of five, led by Chris Cooney, are kept constantly busy.

I am in daily contact with Chris either by fax or satellite telephone and he, in turn, briefs me on things in which I have to be involved, and that usually means a budget decision. Otherwise, Chris runs the show on shore while I run it on board. He also puts together news items from home so we do not lose touch, and this includes reports on other sports events involving Kiwis. At least on this leg there will be no repeat of a rugby defeat by England]

The containers are also workshops with lighting, benches and tools. They carry the spares and sails for the next leg, the food, which comes as much as possible (including the beer), from New Zealand, and the kit we need when in port. This runs, on the domestic side, from bicycles to washing machines and dryers, even cots for the families of the crew. And our own cook, Annie Hodgkinson, will be gearing up to produce 27 meals three times a day except on Sundays.

On the engineering side, there is everything necessary to repair the boat, mast, rudder and keel, fix the electronics and recut the sails. We also use airfreight to bring in new sails or to transport equipment we are using right up to the last minute, like dehumidifiers and battery chargers. So we know that as soon as we tie up in the dock the shore crew will have assembled everything necessary to swing into action like a motor-race pit-crew.

Chris will also have prepared the accommodation, cars, mobile telephones and travel arrangements, plus diary dates for sponsor support, media interviews, local meetings and a full schedule of appointments. So Chris is the general manager acting as chief executive in my absence. After all, we are also a multi-million- pound company which has to produce monthly accounts.

Fortunately, once again we do not have any serious damage, the crew are working well and we have been pretty happy with our tactics, though we might have done better to be a little further south. Against that, we have at times benefited in our more northerly position, and you just cannot switch 50 or 60 miles at the drop of a hat.

We hope to be in Punta before next weekend, but the weather in the South Atlantic can be tricky. There are a lot of miles still to be raced before the winner is decided.