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Tight finish looms in Global Challenge race

Tight finish looms in Global Challenge race.

The Global Challenge yacht fleet is still slogging its way to the Capital, but one of the most dramatic finishes in the race’s history is looming and the leg two record is under threat.

With less than 20 miles to the finish line outside the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, three yachts – Spirit of Sark, BP Explorer and BG Spirit – are separated by just three miles. Any of them could take the leg and a new leg two record.

The yachts’ progress towards Wellington slowed overnight as they sailed into the wind. The lead has also changed dramatically, with BP Explorer, in third 26 miles behind the leader yesterday, now in second just one mile (1.85 kilometres) behind first-placed Spirit of Sark. BG Spirit, in first yesterday, is now third, three miles (5.5 kilometres) behind the leader. The rest of the fleet is yet to break the 100 mile mark.

Shortly before 6pm last night, the leading boat, BG Spirit, had 106 miles to go to the line, but sailing into the wind, the yachts had to cover much more than that distance as they tacked back and forth, meaning a realistic speed towards Wellington of two to three knots. At 8am this morning (4 January) Spirit of Sark was 21 miles out and doing 5.5 knots, BP Explorer was 22 miles out doing 5 knots, and BG Spirit was 24 miles out doing 4.7 knots.

Challenge Business spokesman Alistair Hackett said the finish to leg two was shaping up to be more than the organisers could have hoped for.

“Yesterday we thought there was the possibility that the leg could be decided by two boats inside the harbour, with BP Explorer in a distant third at that stage. But this is a yacht race and things have changed dramatically. We’re now looking at the probability of a three boat duel to the line. There’s plenty of wind in Wellington and it doesn’t get much more exciting than it is right now.

“That these boats are still so close after 6100 miles from Buenos Aires is simply amazing. Often they’re not even in sight of each other in races such as this, but they have been plenty of times on this leg – it’s been that close. Even now, for the leading boats, it could come down to picking that one crucial wind shift,” says Alistair.

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