Race Commentary Archive: Transat 2004


Joes Take the Lead
June 8, 2004

"We've been sailing the hairy edge for over a day now," Joe said in a satellite call early this morning. "The boat is flying along, borderline out of control. It's exhilarating and terrifying at the same time." A quick look at the position page and instant poll data confirms that Wells Fargo - American Pioneer is indeed flying along, and for the first time since just after the start Joe has taken the lead. At 09:00 GMT this morning Wells Fargo - American Pioneer led Artforms by 19 miles. "It's nice to know that we have overtaken Kip, but I know as well as anyone that the tables could turn at any given moment," Joe said. "We obviously had better wind than Artforms. With 80 miles of latitude separating us he could find more wind to the south and reclaim the lead."

The wind speed during the night gusted to 40 knots as Wells Fargo - American Pioneer surfed a short, steep sea. Joe is heading for a waypoint just south of the Flemish Cap, an area of the world made famous by The Perfect Storm. That fact was not lost on the skipper when he called in during the night last night. "It is so dark out here and so wild on deck," he said. "And we are sailing at full speed. It's an unreal situation. With the boat vibrating so much the radar is not getting clean scans so essentially I am sailing blind." To make matters worse the larger Open 60 monohulls have encountered fog and it's likely the 50-footers will run into the same conditions. Mike Golding, leading the 60's aboard Ecover, reported seeing three large stationary objects on his radar during the night which he presumed were icebergs. His closest rival, Mike Sanderson on Pindar/Alphagraphics, is sailing in the same area, but without a radar. His broke a few days ago so Sanderson is really sailing blind as the thick fog reduces visibility to less than a 100 feet.

Despite the hectic sailing Joe says he has been getting some rest. "I almost have no control over my sleep these days," he says. "The adrenaline is keeping me awake, but every now and then I doze off at the nav station and wake up a while later when something goes wrong and I have to rush on deck to take care of it. I have not been in my bunk since the race started." Fortunately the wind has abated somewhat and if the more moderate conditions hold Joe should be able to replenish his sleep supply before the next big front arrives.

Meanwhile in Boston race officials are getting ready for the first multihull to finish. Early this morning multihull leader Michael Desjoyeaux was 190 miles from the finish. He has seen his lead clipped in half by Tomas Coville on Sodebo and both skippers are expected to see the skyline of Boston late this afternoon. It's likely to be a close finish. Desjoyeaux is an immensely experienced sailor having won the Vendee Globe, solo, non-stop race around the world three years ago. His ride for that race was PRB, the monohull 60 that was dismasted yesterday. As already mentioned Joe is sailing in elite company and by all measures he is holding his own. His 24-hour run of 313 nautical miles yesterday was a fine accomplishment. With less than half the racecourse to go we can expect more of the same before he too see the skyline of Boston.

- Brian Hancock (

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