Race Commentary Archive: Transat 2004


Head-To-Head Into the Fog
June 9, 2004

At daybreak this morning a small triangular shape appeared on the horizon which Joe later identified as the sails of his arch rival Kip Stone on Artforms. After a frustrating and exhausting night where the wind died completely and a icy cold damp settled on the boat, it was small relief to see that he was not alone. In fact after a fast and furious ride for the last two days in which Wells Fargo - American Pioneer opened up a lead on Artforms, the sight of his nemesis only added insult to injury. "I had a tough night last night," Joe said in a satellite phone call. "At dusk Tuesday evening the wind was steady and I thought that I would be in for a good night's sailing. The forecast was for light winds, but they died completely and I guess I finally hit the wall. I was so tired and it seemed that the moment I put my head down that the wind would change direction and I would have to go on deck to trim the sails." It's not surprising that Joe finally felt the effects of a highly stressful past few days. The tension of pounding upwind was immediately replaced with nerve wracking downwind sailing and a body can only take so much. Credit must be give to Kip on Artforms who, despite losing the lead to Joe, has continued to sail a steady race and at the latest poll held a slim nine mile lead.

Soon after sighting Artforms a thick fog rolled in encasing the boat in a wet embrace. Both boats are approaching the Grand Banks, an area renown for dense fog and tricky sailing. They are also approaching an area rife with icebergs. These spectacular, but dangerous chunks of ice calve off the Arctic ice pack and are swept south in the Labrador Current. They drift aimlessly in the North Atlantic until finally melting and breaking apart. Before they disintegrate they posed a real navigational threat and all The Transat skippers are wary of this part of the course because of the fog and ice. Joe will be spending many hours monitoring his radar as he transits this tricky area.

While Joe, Kip and the rest of the Transat skippers look longingly westward thinking about that first hot shower and proper meal, three skippers are already enjoying the warm hospitality being offered by Boston. Late yesterday afternoon while a humid pall settled over the city, Michael Desjoyeaux sailed into Boston to win the Multihull 60 fleet. He stormed past Boston Light, barely blinked when he crossed the official finish line off Deer Island, and without slowing sailed into downtown Boston at 25 knots. For those lucky ones that witnessed this spectacular arrival, myself among them, it was an experience not soon forgotten. If you live or work in Boston it's worth a trip to Rowes Wharf to see these amazing flying machines. A hour after Desjoyeaux finished, Tomas Coville on Sodebo (makers of frozen pizzas) crossed the line followed by a midnight arrival of Frank Cammas on Groupama.
It's still early days yet, but if Joe is able to maintain his current pace he could well see the skyline of Boston late next Wednesday. We will keep you posted.

- Brian Hancock (

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