Barcelona World Race Skippers Exit Indian Ocean
The leading group of the Barcelona World Race may be ready to reflect on their passage across an unusually lenient south Indian Ocean but the tail enders of the fleet have been dealing with a punishment which is more perhaps more typical.
The top five boats will already be considering their passage to the Cook Straits which looks set to be influenced by the timing of a high pressure system which may give favour to the second and third placed MAPFRE and Estrella Damm, cost some miles to the leaders Virbac-Paprec 3, and possibly more to Groupe Bel and Renault ZE Sailing Team.
But while their problems, with one known exception, are largely mathematical – evaluating gains and losses, reducing risk and exposure, the three teams at the back of the fleet were well into a strong low pressure system. For most of the Spanish crews this will be their first real experience of stormy conditions since passing into the Indian Ocean.
“The windspeed indicator does not drop below 45 knots and at the moment it is topping 53. In these conditions it is a real battle to get the mainsail down.? Reported Gerard Marín from Fòrum Marítim Català this afternoon .
The laughing cow, on the horns of a dilemma?
Kito De Pavant and Seb Audigane on Groupe Bel, the laughing cow, are caught on the horns of a dilemma. To pit-stop or not to pit-stop?
That is their question which they and their team need to evaluate having today revealed that they have been sailing without two key sails – their big gennaker and heavy kite – since before the Cape Verde islands. De Pavant’s team reported that the first incident happened 29 days ago, when the fleet leaders were sailing fast in strong NE’ly trade winds.
The boat is reported to have luffed violently damaging the big gennaker which was rendered unusable. They continued under heavy spinnaker which they damaged the next day. De Pavant explains subsequently that they no longer have the ideal downwind and reaching sails for the wind range 15-25 knots. They are understood to be considering a technical stop, possibly in New Zealand. Any stop after leaving the Indian Ocean must be of a mandatory minimum of 48 hours. Teams can carry up to 10 officially measured sails which. Up to 60 percent of a damaged sail can be replaced.
From having been in sight of Estrella Damm over recent days Groupe Bel has steadily dropped back to be nearly 200 miles behind the third placed Spanish boat this evening, De Pavant considering that Groupe Bel has been up to 20% below her usual polar speeds compared with Estrella Damm.
Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre was given to comment on the unfortunate timing which has been certainly been precise, but very unfortunate. Each time he and Michèle Paret have come north to satisfy a gate of the course they have been unlucky enough to be slowed by high pressure, whilst others have been much more blessed. Neutrogena have been dealt the same cards. Mirabaud was slowed to under 8 knots at times today but the sixth and seventh placed boats were joining a fast moving low pressure this afternoon.
And the catch up continues for Estrella Damm, this afternoon just 13 miles from passing MAPFRE for second who have been consistently slower than their usual selves, while Hugo Boss had cut the lead of GAES Centros Auditivos to 17 miles and remain around one knot quicker. Virbac-Paprec 3 leads MAPFRE by 526 miles.
Standings at 1400hrs UTC Wednesday 9th February 2011
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at13721,4 miles to the finish
2 MAPFRE at526,6 miles to the leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at539,4 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at731,7 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at1042,4 miles
6 MIRABAUD at1578,3 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at1676,4 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at2210,3 miles
9 HUGO BOSS at2227 miles
10 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at3279,9 miles
12 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at3548,8 miles
Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED), HUGO BOSS: “ We are fast reaching, surfing safari Southern Ocean style. It is fast reaching, very wet, the boat accelerates quickly to 25-26 knots. The cloud cover is cleared and we have blue skies and sunshine, water is 17 degrees. It is really enjoyable hand steering in the waves trying to maximise every mile we have. We have the guys from Hugo Boss Germany on line as well.
It is hard to stay on top of time of day when you are moving so far east, but we try to make it work by always having breakfast when the sun rises and then go from there.
We have had an amazing couple of days, really fun to properly race the boat always looking for the protection and finding a nice balance. One thing we have learned is that there are more gears on this boat, some daggerboard, sails, and we have been really creative in finding new gears, and being fast. The weather has helped and that has helped us catch, but even now we are getting closer and we are still catching. It is looking good. Rumour has it the girls have some nice red wine and toast so we can really close and get a nice platter from them.!?
Alex Pella (ESP), Estrella Damm:”We have gybed before them (MAPFRE). We caught up a lot. The truth is that we are going super fast in the Indian Ocean. We have had almost four days with good winds, reaching and downwind in the right direction for eating miles. We spent nearly three days fighting with Groupe Bel and now we see stretching. We do our stuff and by now it is perfect. Pepe drives the boat very well and I really enjoy my watches as well. I hope it keeps like that for a long time!
I think we will pass quite quickly the Australian barrier. After that, a front comes with a low, probably the strongest wind so far, but that will be in two or three days. At the moment I think the crossing of the barrier will be very clean.
We are very excited. We are third and the boat is performing very well. We would have signed being across Cape Leeuwin in this situation. We will soon have a new opportunity to toast with beer, which will now be chillier. The waves are large and crossed. We used to have the wind on the side and the wave n the back and now downwind and wave at the side. Recently the sky was gray and it rained a little, but now it’s been cleared and it’s a beautiful day in the Indian.
It would be nice to get second, but we have not done even half the race and we must keep our feet on the ground. What is important is that we are good and the boat as well and we are eating and resting well in order to keep moving forward. ”
Dominique Wavre (SUI) Mirabaud:“Every time when we have gone towards an ice gate we have been met with an anticyclone. We have managed to get away from Neutrogena and this time they are behind. Since the start we have arrived at the worse times, bad luck I suppose and the saving grace I suppose is that we have shared our bad luck cards with Neutrogena.
But we had some brilliant times before we got planted into another anticyclone. The conditions are not too tough. With the position of the ice gates we flirt with the anticyclones rather than the depressions. And so it goes quite tamely compared with my past memories. But physically we are tired all the same. We have so many maneuvers and changes to make because of the anticyclones and they are more stressful than good depressions with stable winds.
We stick to French time on the boat so that we don’t wake people on land when we need to communicate. We adapt our sleep pattern because effective, deep sleep is most effective at night and so we try to adapt to that.
Our personal hygiene is not ideal. I have not shaved for a week and I’ve not had time to. With everything going on then that slides down the agenda.
When we were north of Kerguelen I recalled being there after my keel problem in the last Vendée Globe, to bring the boat 2500 miles was really stressful and one of the worst memories of my life. But now the keel system is much more reliable and it feels so much safer to be racing with Michèle.?
Kito De Pavant (FRA) Groupe Bel:“We have been sailing close hauled a lot, and we’ve been running downwind in either a very strong or weak wind, which enabled us to continue at a good pace
On the other hand, in the last few days, everything got back to normal with a fair wind of about twenty knots, and this is when the gennaker has been lacking. We are 20% below Groupe Bel’s performance. Conclusion, Estrella Damm which we were sailing in view of less than a week ago, has flown away 100 miles ahead of us.?
“Today, there is nothing vital that requires us to stop? Kito analyses. “We will make our decision as soon as we have a precise idea of the weather conditions around New Zealand, which may or may not favor a pitstop, and which might penalize us in relation to our contenders. It is also possible that other crews are currently considering the same question. The race is far from over…?