Never in four years of the Extreme Sailing Series has there been so much drama in one day. In almost unprecedented conditions here in Qingdao, the public witnessed some extraordinary adrenalin fueled ‘stadium’ racing, first witnessing a major collision between The Wave, Muscat (OMAN) and Oman Air (OMAN) at the first downwind mark of the first race, and four dramatic capsizes – The Wave, Muscat (OMAN) in Race 2 and Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Team GAC Pindar (GBR) and Oman Air (OMAN) all in the final race of the day. In the first two races it was the very gusty conditions that tested some of the world’s best sailors to their limits, and beyond, with 3 to 23 knots, and up to 30 knots by the final race. “Massive day! The only way to describe it is extreme! The wind was funneling through the big buildings of the city, really puffy and shifty, it caught a lot of people out,” Will Howden, Red Bull Extreme Sailing.
Skipper of The Wave, Muscat, Torvar Mirsky, in his first Extreme 40 season, was to have his toughest day yet, firstly in race 1 accelerating in to the back of Oman Air right at the first downwind mark with the impact throwing crewman Dave “Freddie’ Carr in to the shroud (a cable holding the mast up), and then soon after in Race 2 suffering a catastrophic capsize. Freddie has been given the ‘ok’ but will remain in hospital for observation for 48 hours.
“I can honestly say that this is the worst day of sailing I’ve ever had,” commented a visibly shaken Mirsky, the youngest skipper on the circuit. “First of all taking out Freddie and then in the second race, we got hit by a gust that I couldn’t handle and the boat went down and we all knew straight away that it was going to go over and to hold on. We were trapped and doomed for a disaster. Kyle and I got flicked off from the top and fell onto the mast and snapped it.” [full sequence has been captured on video] The Wave, Muscat were accelerating away after a ‘hot’ bear away and gybe at the final top mark, and lost control as a gust hit and span them in to a very fast cartwheel.
The conditions on the second day of Act 2 guaranteed that these fast and powerful Extreme 40s were going to be a handful even for these experienced professional crews. By the third race the 11-boat fleet had been told to put a reef in and keep their massive downwind gennakers furled. A sensible measure, but not enough to stop three further capsizes in the final race when the gusts were reaching 30 knots. Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing was chasing for the lead in the final race and was just meters from the pedestrian breakwater when they capsized: “We saw a gust coming which we knew was really hard. The wind was 5 knots when we went into the gybe and 25 after. We dived immediately and then capsized. We went so quickly. All four of us were hanging on because we know what happens from the last time, so we were all safe and luckily we had lifejackets and helmets on and nobody got hurt.” [*Red Bull Extreme Sailing capsized at the Muscat event in January 2010 during the Extreme Sailing Series Asia]
Whilst Red Bull Extreme Sailing was being righted by their support RIB, British skipper Ian Williams, who is new to this multihull game, was the next capsize victim as he closed in on the downwind mark a little too ‘hot’ along with Oman Air (back out racing with a replacement crew). Oman Air’s skipper Frenchman Sidney Gavignet bailed out, but when trying to bear away to come back down to the mark a second time, a powerful gust during a tight turn, sent them also hurtling in to a capsize.
Emirates Team New Zealand stayed out of trouble and retained the top position on the leaderboard ahead of Alinghi in 2nd and Red Bull Extreme Sailing finish in 3rd place today.
The pit lane is busy tonight as man and machine are put back together. Red Bull Extreme Sailing was righted with mast intact despite rubbing on the bottom of Fushan Bay, Team GAC Pindar was righted with mast intact and towed back in albeit missing one of their daggerboards. Both teams expect to be racing tomorrow. The Wave, Muscat suffered a broken mast and full inversion, with the extent of the damage still to be assessed. Oman Air spent some hours fully inverted and is now back in the harbour, with its condition yet to be established.
A day one can only described as Extreme!
Leaderboard after Day 3
1st Emirates Team New Zealand
3rd Red Bull Extreme Sailing
4th Luna Rossa
5th Groupe Edmond De Rothschild
6th Artemis Racing
8th The Wave, Muscat
9th Team Extreme
10th Oman Air
11th Team GAC Pindar
British yachtswoman Dee Caffari and Spanish co skipper Anna Corbella onboard their yacht, GAES Centros Auditivos, have crossed the finish line of the Barcelona World Race at 08:17hrs (BST) on 13 April 2011, both having achieved a world record.
For Caffari this marks her third race around the globe and thrusts her into the record books as the woman that has sailed non-stop around the planet more times than any other in history. Corbella also sets her own record as the first Spanish woman to circumnavigate the globe non-stop. The only all female crew to participate in the Barcelona World Race finished in sixth place, from a starting fleet of fourteen.
Having spent 102 days at sea, the GAES girls were thrilled to see a flotilla of boats ready to welcome them off the Barceloneta beach. Dee Caffari, 38, and Anna Corbella, 34, have been supported by Spanish hearing aid company, GAES and the world’s sixth largest insurance group, Aviva.
Caffari and Corbella were surrounded by supporter boats as they crossed the finish line triumphantly. An exhilarated Caffari said:
“Sailing around the world just once in a lifetime is an amazing experience. To circumnavigate the planet non-stop for a third time and set another world record is an absolute privilege. Every time you go down to the Southern Ocean and expose yourself to the extremes of nature you test your luck and, fortunately, mine has held so far. I am hoping that good fortune will continue as I am not finished with round the world sailing just yet!”
Caffari’s next goal is to compete in the Vendée Globe 2012 with the intention of securing a podium position and the search for a new title sponsor to support her ongoing sailing campaign continues.
On becoming the first Spanish woman to sail non-stop around the world, Anna Corbella said:
“It is very emotional to finish in my home city after sailing around the world and passing the three great capes nonstop. The journey has not been easy but the reward could not be bigger.”
“I am delighted for Anna who has achieved something very special onboard GAES Centros Auditivos. To become the first Spanish woman to sail around the world non-stop will make her an inspiration to many others. It has been an incredible opportunity for me to have achieved a world first and to have helped Anna accomplish her own record on our journey together”
Dee Caffari, entered the record books in May 2006 when she became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop the ‘wrong’ way around the world (against the prevailing winds and currents). Caffari went on to achieve a double world first three years later by becoming the only woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions when she completed the Vendee Globe race on 14th February 2009. The Barcelona World Race has allowed Caffari to achieve one more non-stop lap of the planet and add another world record to her prestigious sailing achievements.
The Barcelona World Race was not all plain sailing for the GAES girls as three weeks ago they discovered damage to a main structural ringframe of the boat. The repair necessitated that Caffari cut into the ballast tank to mend both sides of the damaged area in the hope that the temporary fix would last to the end of the race. Although under race rules a technical stop was allowed and indeed seven boats (50% of the fleet) took advantage of that fact for a variety of reasons, Caffari and Corbella were determined that they complete the race as a non-stop course.
Antonio Gasso, CEO of GAES said:
“For Gaes it is an historic milestone to have participated in an adventure that has seen Anna and Dee become the first all female crew to sail around the world non-stop in the Barcelona World Race. We are extremely proud to support this fantastic team.”
Sarah Loughran, Head of Corporate Sponsorship at Aviva commented:
“Dee’s achievements are a testament to her courage, determination and ability and we are thrilled to have played a role in that inspirational journey. We have supported Dee since the start of her first non stop round the world trip in 2005 and to be able to welcome her home six years later as the woman who has completed that voyage more times than any other makes everyone at Aviva incredibly proud.”
From the leading duo counting down their final 750 or 800 miles to Cape Horn to those nearly 5000 miles behind fighting to make it across the Tasman to the Cook Strait, the vast majority of the Barcelona World Race fleet today are either racing in strong winds, or expecting them imminently.
Virbac-Paprec 3 and MAPFRE, some 78 miles apart this afternoon, are trying to outrun the approach of a fast moving low pressure system, the regenerated, reinvigorated Atu (Atu v2.0?) and escape around Cape Horn into the Atlantic. But it is the fleet’s tailgunners on We Are Water which has struggled the most today after being temporarily knocked flat by a big wave, taking water inside the boat.
Jaume Mumbrú and Cali Sanmarti reported that they are both fine, but unable to gybe due to a broken lazyjack and other sundry problems the duo were making slow SE’ly course during the early afternoon, before heaving while they baled water out of the boat and try to sort out their electronics problems. The impact of the wave ripped apart plastic spray curtains which protect part of the cockpit,. Part of the electrical equipment is not working at the moment.
And Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella last night (day time local for them) suffered a series of involuntary tacks when GAES Centros Auditivos’ autopilot hiccupped twice. With two sails partly in the water, the duo had their hands full, choosing to run north and take some pressure off themselves and the boat. The robust hard reaching conditions, with the wind slightly forward of the beam in difficult seas, made their choice of sacrificing some miles to Hugo Boss a difficult one, but a necessary one at the time.
“Things are horrible. We are upwind in 35 knots of wind and it is pretty wet and miserable. We had an ‘everything’ problem, the good thing about it all was that it was daylight when it happened. It was a catalogue of disasters and it took us quite a lot to get through it. And I just had a very brief time in the bean bag and I said to her that I feel like I have been beaten up. I feel quite exhausted by it. We are really wanting this wind to drop now.
We have come back on course now. We decided that we cant run away to the north for ever because it does just make the course worse afterwards. We are back where we should be after having a bit of rest and recovery. We are now just upwind and it is 30-35kts.” Said Caffari on this morning’s Visio-Conference.
“It was a bit emotional at the time but we did manage to giggle about it, we found the funny side of it, the fact that we were so ridiculously wet. But everything is still working, the boat is OK. We got the sails back on board, so of all the things that did go wrong we dealt with it all well.”
The duel at the front of the fleet between Virbac-Paprec 3 and MAPFRE now sees the French duo taking a clear advantage with their more northerly tracking. Individually both sets of co-skippers reported that they were struggling with the very changeable and unstable winds – requiring many sail changes and constant vigilance – in the brisk, but variable breezes sent by the low pressure centre which was just to the south east of them today, slightly closer for the Spanish duo.
Despite the intensity of the battle with the Virbac-Paprec 3, the evident chagrin at losing miles to the French pair, not to mention the extreme cold – 4 deg C and the fact that it was in the middle if a dark, dirty night – it was again an inspiration today to see the pleasure that Fernandez, Spain’s three times 49er world champion, double Olympic medalist and twice Volvo round the world veteran, takes in answering questions put to him by the young local Barcelona schoolchildren.
The duel with Dick and Peyron is dismissed for a few stolen moments Fernandez’s smile breaks his lips, the twinkle in his eyes lights up the gloomy fug inside MAPFRE as he takes time and pleasure to answer each question fully. One of this race’s unique and pure pleasures, one which perhaps will inspire a new generation of round the world racers?
And the duel for third evens out again this afternoon as Renault Z.E’s Toño Piris and Pachi Rivero fight back, 19 miles ahead of Neutrogena this afternoon both sailing at even speeds.
A special Visio-Conference in the early afternoon linked up guests and representative of sponsors Mirabaud with Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret.
Rankings at 1400hrs Tuesday 1st March 2011
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 7642 miles to finish
2 MAPFRE 79 miles from the leader
3 RENAULT Z.E at 1411 miles
4 NEUTROGENA at 1430 miles
5 MIRABAUD at 1597 miles
6 GROUPE BEL at 1887 miles
7 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 1957miles
8 HUGO BOSS at 2308 miles
9 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 2444miles
10 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 3907 miles
11 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 4236 miles
12 WE ARE WATER at 4859 miles
Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos:“Things are horrible. We are upwind in 35 knots of wind and it is pretty wet and miserable. We had an ‘everything’ problem, the good thing about it all was that it was daylight when it happened. It was a catalogue of disasters and it took us quite a lot to get through it. And I just had a very brief time in the bean bag and I said to her that I feel like I have been beaten up. I feel quite exhausted by it. We are really wanting this wind to drop now.
We have come back on course now. We decided that we cant run away to the north for ever because it does just make the course worse afterwards. We are back where we should be after having a bit of rest and recovery. We are now just upwind and it is 30-35kts.
According to the forecast by 1800hrs this evening it should start to ease and then we go through our daylight hours upwind.
It was a bit emotional at the time but we did manage to giggle about it, we found the funny side of it, the fact that we were so ridiculously wet. But everything is still working, the boat is OK. We got the sails back on board, so of all the things that did go wrong we dealt with it all well.
It was really good, because I just jump on deck and get on with then I think that she gets a lot of confidence in that, so she drove while I got the sails back on board, and she drove while I sorted the pilots, so she got a bit of a battering each day. We both warmed up and put some dry clothes on and since then we have recovered. It is really good to see her confidence grow so much and in the boat. And we looked after each other, she just said to me that the only thing she wanted was that I not go in the water. I said I was not planning on it!
It is really nice to see Anna progressing, most of confidence and she says that comes from me which I am surprised about, but now she is confident in what the boat can do and making choices like what sails to put up and I am pleased about that, because it makes my life easier. So it is working for both of us.
And she asks questions about, like this is not what you said the Southern Ocean would be like, and I say it is different for me too. It is nice to hear her talking to other skippers in the fleet and sounding more knowledgeable and confident.
Xabi Fernandez (ESP) MAPFRE: “The situation is a little more complicated than the last few days. We have spent the last 24 hours with a lot of showers, one after the other and so we have had no rest. And an area of light winds has really struck us and so we have been losing some miles, little by little.
There are some clouds with showers which bring you squalls and more wind which give you a good push but not in the direction you want. For example we are on a course yesterday of 100-110 degrees and suddenly you get a 50 degrees shift, that is you pointing 50 degrees off your course. On the other hand there are another kind which tyou get which suddenly see the breeze drop from 20 knots to five or six knots, totally quiet and you can do nothing. It pours with rain. And in these hours you are given to wondering how the other boat is going. You kind of assume that it is the same for us both, but the truth is that we had another bad cloud and a spell with zero wind.
I think they are going a bit better than us, we are fighting to stay with them. Although we have got a little bit back I think we can see some compression into Cape Horn. To pass Cape Horn first? …Well it is a big enough achievement at all to pass Cape Horn, but first would be better.
The target is just to go as fast as possible we need to simply get there as quick as possible. If we are slowed or delayed it would be difficult. There is always acceleration of the wind there, and so aside from Virbac-Paprec 3, we just want to be there before the storm gets us.”
Dominique Wavre (SUI) Mirabaud: “We will do all that we can to attack third place, but it is a bit difficult at the moment because tomorrow we have a big depression coming and that will put us in conservation mode not to break anything. And so it is a bit of a difficult position. We are expecting two storms between now and Cape Horn and so it will be difficult but we will be doing all we can to get at third place.”
Michèle Paret (FRA) Mirabaud:“We mostly have enough food to get us to the finish. We have cut back on our consumption. We will have a bit less food for the last week but we don’t have any great concerns. And it is not normal to have to stop to take on food.
At the end of the South Atlantic before the south I felt a bit weak and so we spoke with the doctor and he said I was a bit anemia. And what we had in the boat’s pharmacy would not be enough until the end of the race. And the treatment is long term. So the preference was to get a supply from New Zealand and as soon as I started to take the iron I have been feeling better. And so I continue to take it to make sure I don’t risk a new weakness.”
Dominique Wavre: “Mirabaud is in good shape. We have no big concerns. Yesterday there was a problem with a wind indicator but we use the spare which is a bit less precise but it is a little les precise. The boat feels a little tired, but everything is intact. We have been surfing at 22-23 knots. The wind is lifting and so we go a little north again to wait for the shift and then to return to the south on the back of a major depression heading in the direction of Cape Horn.”
Having claimed 6th position on the second leg of the Vuelta Espana, the crew of GAES Centros Auditivos had a short rest overnight and set off on the next 220 mile sprint from Gijon to Sanxenxo at 1100hrs BST today. The brief recovery time in Gijon has given skipper Dee Caffari time to reflect on Leg 2 with a view to making improvements in the remaining legs of this race.
Looking back at the start of Leg 2, Dee Caffari analysed:
“There was limited water available to sail in outside of the main channel in Santander and the start was scheduled to be at 1500hrs, downwind and down tide. With limited space available and 8 IMOCA 60’s leaving together, the skippers all agreed that spinnakers would be foolish.”
“Just as we were preparing to hoist our mainsail a terrible clunking noise was heard from the engine. It was a noise I recognised from the delivery – a broken sheer pin. We found ourselves ferry gliding to the beach with a mainsail hoisted to the third reef and caught in the top mast runners. I turned the boat to keep us in the channel and we headed out downwind, fast in the flowing tide. A safe and simple Genoa was chosen and we watched the rest of the fleet take off under Gennaker.”
“GAES Centros Auditivos loved the set up of 1 reef, Solent headsail and ballast. We soon gained miles on the others and closed the gap with W Hotels and Estrella Damm. After seeing Safran and Movistar tack and having to duck to avoid Movistar we got over excited and tacked as well. This was not a good strategy for us and we made a mistake when moving the sails around on deck to the windward side. We caught the tiller and before we knew it we had crash tacked, ultimately losing us about 4 miles.”
“After that we had to work hard again to make up the distance between us and the others, so were pleased to enter a tacking duel again with Estrella Damm close to the finish in Gijon”
Looking ahead to Leg 3, Dee Caffari said:
“This race is going to have different climatic conditions to the other two stages and our goal is to get a higher top speed that allows us to be within the lead group.” Anna Corbella added: “This stage will be more enjoyable as we will be sailing downwind at speed. We will also pass Cape Finisterre which will mean we will see some changes in conditions.”
The competition is currently led by Vincent Riou on PRB, followed by Frenchman Marc Guillemot on Safran and the Spanish Movistar skippered by Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez in third place.
In five years as her title sponsor, Aviva supported Dee Caffari to three world records including becoming the first woman to sail solo, non stop, around the world in both directions. As Founding Partner of the campaign, Aviva is pleased to extend this support to Anna and GAES for the Barcelona World Race
Teenage solo circumnavigator Mike Perham and Dee Caffari MBE, the first woman to sail solo around the world both ways, are recipients of this year’s Ocean Cruising Club’s prestigious Awards of Merit.
17-year-old Mike Perham from Potters Bar, returned to a heroes welcome at Portsmouth last August to seize the Guinness World Record as the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
Mike Perham said today. “I’m knocked out at winning this award, and to do so with Dee Caffari, one of my heroes, is the icing on the cake. I can’t wait to meet her at the awards dinner.”
Dee was equally complimentary about Mike’s record when he returned to Portsmouth. ‘What Mike has achieved is fantastic at his age. He will have learnt and developed a great deal during the months he has been away.’ She said, adding: ‘Development is about learning and experience and this does not necessarily have to take place in an academic environment. His experiences and life skills developed at sea will have helped shaped Mike’s character. He will have learnt a great deal which he will draw from in the future.’
Peter Whatley, Chairman of the OCC Awards committee, said today: “We want to congratulate both sailors: Dee’s double record has to be one that will stand for a very long time and serve as an inspiration for many in the future. Mike’s achievement proves that sailing around the world is not about age, but the determination to achieve one’s goal. Mike and Dee still have much left to give to the world of sailing and we will all watch their progress with pride, admiration and a great deal of interest.”
The Awards Ceremony takes place at the Royal Thames Yacht Club on March 26th, two week’s before Mike Perham sets off to Australia to commence his next challenge – The Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition. He joins a 4-man crew led by Australian adventurer Don McIntyre to recreate one of the greatest open boat voyages of all time – the famous 4,000 mile story of survival of Capt William Bligh and his crew, following the infamous mutiny on HMS Bounty.
Dee and Brian completed the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France to Costa Rica onboard Aviva. The first week of the race saw the fleet battle through some extreme weather conditions and subsequent damage to boats forced four Open 60’s, including fellow British sailor Alex Thomson, to retire from racing.
Dee and Brian had their fair share of problems but were able to replace a lost wind instrument in a becalmed period. Generator issues meant that both sailors had to hand steer for the majority of the time as they were without the pilot, however, a speedy pit stop in St Lucia for a generator part enabled them to get powered back up and stay in the race. Towards the final stages, the duo raced hard to finish in 8th position from an original fleet of fourteen IMOCA Open 60 yachts that started the transatlantic race 19 days ago. In the last few hours of the race Aviva experienced very light winds making for a frustrating and protracted finish into the port of Limon.
The Transat Jacques Vabre was the last of the races validated by IMOCA in the two year Open 60 season and Aviva’s result earned additional points for both Dee and Brian. Out of 33 skippers, Caffari was ranked 6th, in her first full IMOCA season, and Thompson 8th. The World Championship title was won by Marc Guillemot, skipper of Safran.
“To have finished 6th in the IMOCA rankings, alongside noted sailors like Michel Desjoyeaux and Marc Guillemot is an added bonus and makes me very proud of how much Aviva and I have achieved in the past two years.”
On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Dee said:
“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the finale in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.' So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of. Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”
Having now had chance to enjoy the creature comforts of dry land, like a shower, fresh food, a long sleep in a real bed and interaction with lots of people all at once, I have had chance to reflect on the race.
Having worked so hard and held such good positions during the race eighth place was disappointing at the time. The reality is that any of the four boats finishing with us could have finished in fifth and any order could have followed. We were in squall territory and it was a certain amount of luck for the final few miles. Even the conversations ashore with the other skippers and people involved in the race have all been talking about our huge gains at the end and also how fast we were at the start and during the big storm we all faced during the first week. This has off course made me feel better and I cannot deny I loved sailing Aviva again in a big race and it was great sailing with Brian. We had some problems to face and we did it all in a positive manner and had huge fun as well as the hard sailing together.
Now we are preparing the boat for the delivery home. Hannah Jenner and Katy Miller are busy helping with jobs on the boat to learn their way around as they will be joining James and Harry for the trip home. Let’s hope they will be home for Christmas. I know Aviva will look after them and I am confident that they will look after her well for me.
On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Brian Thompson said:
“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. There were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then we had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akena, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.
It was a perfect, swashbuckling finale to bring the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed transatlantic race towards its final conclusion. Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier played the starring roles some days ago, Guillemot the hero of the Vendée Globe winning the top prize, but the final full day of racing proved a cliffhanger.
After over 5,300 miles and nearly 20 days of racing, when all four protagonists, scrapping over 5th to 8th places emerged from the cover of stealth mode at 1000hrs GMT/UTC (0400hrs local) this morning, less than eight miles separated fifth placed Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias) from seventh placed Aviva (Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson).
And Akéna Vérandas (Arnaud Boissieres and Vincent Riou) was a further 15.1 miles behind the British duo
Having held fifth place for five days – since they broke into the Caribbean – the Spanish duo on W-Hotels, were never going to give it away easily.
Passed for the second time in the final 12 hours by Veolia Environnement, when the French duo rocketed off into the rainy gloom of yet another squall, on the strength of a sail change the Spanish pair just could not make in the gusty 25 knots breeze, they felt that they were destined for sixth.
But their determination never wavered.
The next squall brought them back to rescue their fifth, arriving like a spectre from out of the murk at 17-18 knots to haunt Veolia for the third and final time, just half a mile from the finish.
It was perhaps appropriate that the surprised Spaniards – on their own voyage of discovery, racing an IMOCA Open 60 for the first time ever – cemented their success arriving Puerto Limon, in the wake of their legendary forebear Christopher Columbus who sailed to the New World in here in 1502.
Ribes and Pella finished four minutes and 16 second ahead of their French rivals, exhausted but pleased to have taken fifth, in between two of the most successful IMOCA Open 60 racing skippers, Michel Desjoyeaux and Jourdain.
They had only sailed together for a few days before embarking on this race, and learned as they came down the track. Standing smiling in the torrential rain on the dockside they admitted to many mistakes and ‘beginners errors’ but they can be justly proud of their result in this highest quality field.
The Spanish were delighted. But there was disappointment for Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva. At one point they were, according to Ribes, 100 metres away from Aviva.
They waited for the British pair to tack and, in the end, chose to do their own thing, gaining 15 miles in to the finish.
The British pair slowed in a final light zone, losing out to Akéna Vérandas in the last stages to finish eighth, just 27 minutes behind the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou and skipper Arnaud Boissieres.
Caffari and Thompson’s disappointment in losing out in the high stakes scuffle, which was largely carried out in torrential tropical rain and changeable winds, was obvious but Caffari reflected enthusiastically on how much she has improved since she competed in the last edition in 2007 as an IMOCA greenhorn.
All four boats finished within just over three and a half hours. 1876 was due to finish by around 1800hrs GMT and Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on Artemis later tonight.
Pepe Ribes, (ESP), W-Hotels:
“ The last 36 hours have been no sleep, no eating, nothing. We played the stealth card and so did everyone else at the same time. And when we played the stealth it was the first time that we saw a boat, with Veolia just crossing our bows, that was yesterday morning. Then since then we passed them once and then they passed us again, then we passed them again just half a mile from the finish line. I really don’t know what made the difference in the end. We went to the beach and then we saw Aviva, who were very close to us, only 50 metres away.
We went with Aviva to the beach and we waited for them to tack but they did not tack, and so we tacked and from there we were reaching really, really fast maybe 18-19 knots.
Then we saw a light and thought it was a cruising boat. We were sure Veolia were way ahead. In one of the squalls they managed to drop their spinnaker and put up their masthead genoa and go straight, so we had to bear away. So they left. And when we saw a green light we thought it was a cruising boat. I looked with the binos and told Alex and we could not believe.”
“ I think it is good result for us, very very good. We were not expecting such a good result at all. We did not know the level, and for me I thought between tenth and fourteenth and we finished fifth, so, fantastic. It is a good result for me, and I hope for Spain.”
“ I feel very, very tired. But we made many, many mistakes. At the beginning, not so much now. We made a lot of mistakes and lost a lot of miles. But we are going forwards.”
“ I think we were pushing the boat very, very hard and broke a lot of things. We were good together. We tried to share everything and learn about each other. He has a lot of strong points and I have strong points and it works well. He is more like an offshore sailor, more relaxed and I am more go, go, go. It is a good mix, I am always 100%. We pushed, I don’t care, I sail it like a Volvo boat, we keep pushing and I don’t care if the boat breaks.”
“But we made mistakes, it is double handed and it is new for us.”
Alex Pella (ESP) W-Hotels:
“ The boat is OK, but we broke a lot of small things, the spinnaker. We had problems with the pilots, sometimes they worked, sometimes they did not work. But we fived them with a spare compass, and they worked, and then two days later they did not. But the boat is nice and work towards the Barcelona World Race.
Pepe is a very good sailor. He has so much experience and pushes very hard, he has experience with the Volvo boats which helped, and I learned so much from sailing with Pepe.”
“ On the one hand he is a very methodical guy, very ordered but he wants to push all the time, to push hard.”
“ At the beginning of the race we had decided to go south, but then when we saw some going west, we said ok we try to catch this option but it was too late. In fact there was a time when we tried but we were too late. We went with the wrong option.
But we are here!”
“ Foncia and Akena went further south. We had a maximum of 50 knots in the third storm and big waves.”
“ I am really, really happy. We are hear to learn the boat. This is a training for the Barcelona World Race and here we are in Costa Rica, it is incredible….in between Foncia and Veolia. It is fantastic!”
Dee Caffari (GBR) Aviva:
“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the final in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.’ So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of..
Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”
Brian Thompson (GBR) Aviva:
“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. Ther were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then when had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akenas, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.”
“Before, it was the English, now we have the Spanish! It was hard.! It was tough but fun, a great race for first place in this second group! It was intense with many challenges. We knew this course would be more varied in terms of the different weather conditions and that really was the case. We even had our small technical pit stop, we like them with Jean-Luc. That’s why I plan to make stages races. We would like to have played with the top of the fleet. The technical stop we could have done without. We did not think it would cost us. We were optimistic but saw time slipping.
Marco went very fast and I agree they went the right way, with the good options, but they went really, really fast.
Yesterday morning it was hell. We waited for the wind from the east and north and had southerly. We saw a boat behind and managed to escape. Yesterday evening we saw it again and gybed away. In a squall we tacked and put five miles on them. And then this morning we were sitting all but still and a racing car arrived, someone so quick we thought it was a motor boat.”
“But our boat is OK, it went well but on the other hand it is not a new boat. Veolia has gaps compared with the new boats. We still go well and make results because I know this Mobylette but it is nevertheless frustrating.”
Jean-Luc Nélias, FRA (Veolia Environnement):
“We passed W-Hotels in a squall, but they negotiated them better. When we cam out from stealth, we realized we had made five miles on them, and then this morning we took another squall and got it back. From a result point of view we are not that happy. We could have battled it out with boats such as Mike Golding but the others are faster. It is nevertheless frustrating because out mainsail mast track was broken. The first reef has been very useful. But we are glad we got here. We laughed a lot with Bilou. It was a good adventure.”
Breaking the finish line at 11:41:44hrs GMT Friday 27th November (05:41:44hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 11mins 44seconds at an 10.41knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Spain’s Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella on W-Hotels took fifth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Ribes and Pella sailed a distance of 5790 miles at an average of 12.75kts.
W-Hotels finish 3 days 2 hours 49 minutes 34 seconds behind the winner Safran.
Breaking the finish line at 11:46:00hrs GMT Friday 27th November (05:46:00hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 16mins 00 seconds at an 10.41 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias on Veolia Environnement took sixth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Jourdain and Nélias sailed a distance of 5734miles at an average of 12.52kts.
Veolia Environnement finish 3 days 2 hours 53 minutes and 50 seconds behind the winner Safran.
Breaking the finish line at 14:50:12hrs GMT Friday 27th November (08:50:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 20m 12s seconds at an 10.34 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Arnaud Boissières and Vincent Riou on Akena Veranda took seventh place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Boissières and Riou sailed a distance of
5823miles at an average of 12.73kts.
Akéna Vérandas finished 3days 05hours 58min 02s seconds behind the winner Safran.
Breaking the finish line at 15:17:12hrs GMT Friday 27th November (09:17:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 46m 12s seconds at an 10.33 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Great Britain’s Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva took eighth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race.
Caffari and Thompson sailed a distance of 5700 miles at 12,45 knots average .
Aviva finished 3d 06h 25min 02secs behind the winner Safran.
On a race which has a recent history of dealing close, tight finishes, the final miles of the Transat Jacques Vabre can be the most nerve racking. The finish line is all but in sight, the miles counting down with a pleasing whirr, but for Safran’s Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier – who are seeking to convert the lead they have held for nine days – they still have no shortage of pressure, and it is likely to stay heaped upon them until the end.
And with less than 450 miles to go in this ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the gap back from Safran to Kito de Pavant and François Gabart on Groupe Bel is just over 70 miles. In 2007 the Safran duo missed out, taking second just 54 minutes behind Michel Desjoyeaux and Manu Le Borgnan on the course from Le Havre to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. In 2005 the winning margin of Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron was just 35 minutes over Roland Jourdain and Ellen MacArthur. This new coffee route course to Costa Rica may yet brew up an equally close finish.
Groupe Bel are an ever present threat, as they have been to Safran since they eased past Mike Golding Yacht Racing a week ago, Saturday night 14th, to install themselves in second place. A relatively stationary little low pressure trough has installed itself over the Gulf of Panama. That has contributed to some spicy squall activity for the two leaders today but so there is the distinct threat that the final miles in to the finish line off Costa Rica’s Puerto Limon will not be easy. This morning, in a blustery 30 knots, Safran’s co-skipper Guillemot sounded slightly slightly harassed and was certainly too busy to speak for more than a few snatched seconds.
Groupe Bel are but one gybe behind, but how much compression there will be in the variable, fluky winds which are predicted for the finish tomorrow (Tues) late afternoon or evening, no one is prepared to guess.
Safran crossed the longitude of Cartagena (Colombia) which was the finish for the Transat Jacques Vabre from 1993 to 1999, with a time of 13 days and 22 hours of sailing.
Underlining the evolution of the class ten years ago, the winner of the IMOCA Open 60 division took 19 days and 17 hours over the same course.
By comparison with the course record to Salvador de Bahia, JP Dick and Loick Peyron’s 13.51 knots in 2005 compares with the course average so far of Safran at 13.26 knots.
Safran had done 375 miles over the 24 hours to 1100hrs today.
While Mike Golding Yacht Racing and Foncia seem assured of third and fourth, the race for sixth to eighth remains the closest group of the IMOCA Open 60. While Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella now hold sixth place on W-Hotels, Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson were breaking away from eighth and the heat of battle to effect a rapid pit stop to collect a replacement generator control panel at a rendezvous off St Lucia. The British duo were just two miles short of Veolia Environnment’s seventh when they diverged north.
Golding confirmed to this morning’s radio vacs with Puerto Limon, Costa Rica that he feels sure that the leaders will squeeze up in the lighter, variable airs expected, but – he said – it would be unlikely to be enough for he and his Spanish co-skipper Javier Sanso to make any impact on the two leaders who are head by more than half of the remaining race track. Plagued by electrical problems, he is still on target for his fourth Transat Jacques Vabre podium finish in the six times he has raced in this Autumn classic.
Charles Caudrelier, (FRA) Safran:
“It has calmed a little since last night. It is calmer but no holidays. It is very demanding just now. We have so much to do, there is just one thing after another. I helm in shorts which is quite pleasant but you are soaked most of the time with water coming over the deck. We take turns doing things, I don’t mind from time to time being at the chart table.
It feels like we are getting near the end. You sleep little and make lost of moves..
Stealth mode? I don’t know if that is supposed to be funny, but for you it would not be funny now not to know who was leading now….!!”
Dee Caffari, (GBR), Aviva:
“It is all set up and we are now just trying to sail to St Lucia as fast as possible, these are great conditions to be sailing in and so we can’t complain too much and it should not cost us too much time, which is good because our competition is tough.
It was an incredible night to drive in, I kind of struggled. I kind of thought we would have lost a lot, and when we got our position reports it was one of our better nights….
It is full of surprises, but it just goes to show how hard we are all working. It is closer and closer.
We are trying to organize so it will be as swift as possible and not let us lose too much, especially in terms of our focus. We are so just trying to concentrate on boat speed all the time and the generator is just background.”
Mike Golding, (GBR) Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
“The gybes are quite interesting with a short sea, and quite a lot of wind. We are making good progress. We are still having to do quite a lot of hand steering which is quite tiring. At the one time we are massively overpowered and at the other we are hardly moving at all, so that is the only way to do it with no wind on the pilots.
We run trust watch system with no fixed timings, so we work as long as we feel we are alert and try and give the other person as much respect as possible, sometimes one guy is pretty tired then the other will know that and be feeling up for it and so give the other a bit more time lying down, and then when conditions get tough like just now then we are hand steering a lot then we maybe try and do three hour stints, but we have no precise watch system.
There will be a close up towards the end, as inevitably it will get lighter towards the finish, and that may well make for an exciting finish, certainly for the first two boats, and we might see some significant compression, right now with the conditions but with a large gap ahead of us and a similarly large gap behind us, then we are straight lining and trying not to break anything unecessarily.”