Gabart ETA this weekend
Jean Pierre Dick still racing
Sanso without wind instruments
The fleet leaders are expected to arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne, Vendée, France either Saturday evening, or Sunday morning. Please visit the website for regular updates. The current plan is that the first three boats crossing the finish line and making their way down the canal will receive LIVE coverage on the Vendée Globe web TV channel hosted by Daily Motion.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) has delayed his decision whether he will abandon the race, or to try and make it back to Les Sables d’Olonne until after the Azores. He is currently talking with his architects (Guillaume Verdier and VPLP) and considering whether or not he can use the water ballast system effectively to provide greater stability to his boat. Previous, Vendée Globe winner, Alain Gaultier, said today web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE, “Jean-Pierre Dick is probably sailing with 6 or 7 tons of water in the ballast, which is fine and safe when sailing upwind. But when sailing downwind, the situation may change. I know Jean-Pierre will make the right choice and do what needs to be done to stay safe.” Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), today on the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE said “there’s some big weather ahead. It’s not something I would do – well maybe before I had a family.” At the end of the show, a congenial Thomson said, “I would rather that Jean Pierre Dick finished the race and came third and I came fourth then he didn’t finish the race at all.” Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is currently making fair progress down the track and although Alex Thomson(Hugo Boss) is slowly picking off the miles but on some level Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is also keeping him at bay. There currently stands 130 miles between Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and third place.
It’s not over until it’s over
It’s simply a matter of days. The estimated times of arrival (ETA) forFrançois Gabart (MACIF) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) are becoming more refined. It was only 74 days ago that we watched the fleet of 20 intrepid adventurers cast off in the rain and sail off into the grey, overcast north Atlantic. The weather is good for a rapid progression towards the finish.
With only 1400 miles from the finish line, the young pretender seems likely to have knocked out his challenger in the 74th round. The challenger,Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is currently behind by 89 miles, in other words, ten hours of navigation. The weather situation is not complicated and will automatically benefit François Gabart (MACIF) who gybed this morning and headed straight towards the stronger breeze, whose generous west southwesterly winds will advance him with unstoppable force. At best, he should arrive Saturday morning (January 26) on the finish line, and at worst in the evening. But it’s looking like the winner will smash the record of around 77, or 78 days. An incredible feat! Currently, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) should finish ten hours later, knocking 11 days off his circumnavigation time of 4 years ago. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) who allowed for 90 days should have food to spare when he returns.
It is these at best case scenarios that Race HQ, now on the ground and located in Les Sables d’Olonne, are working towards in their daily meetings. However, the skipper of MACIF is not immune to danger. He still has to negotiate the Azores, Cape Finisterre and the congested maritime traffic lanes of the Atlantic, where cargo ships and fishing boats go about their business. Lest we not forget the large marine mammals and other hidden dangers that inhabit these waterways.
The weather conditions are expected to deteriorate as they enter the Bay of Biscay, with southwesterly winds of 30 to 35 knots and 5 metre waves.François Gabart (MACIF) told the French version of the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that he was not planning to take any risks. “I’ll definitely be careful, I won’t take risks. I haven’t really taken any, but I’ll take even less now! I’ll keep things simple, I won’t try to go too fast to gain half a mile or something. Things would be different if Armel were ahead of me, but he’s not, so I’ll make sure we surf nicely and smoothly.”
Sanso wind blind
Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) told the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that he was sailing his Open 60 like a dinghy. He sent this further detail in an email to the race HQ “I have been sailing for a few days as if it was dinghy sailing because I don’t have any wind information. The boat’s electronics haven’t been going well since Cape Horn and for three days nothing has been working. Thank God the automatic pilots are working though! The problem is with the wind vanes – the three I have on board are not functioning. It is a problem to sail the boat fully at 100% since during the day I can helm as much as possible but at night it is more difficult.” This inconvenience will undoubtedly delay his progress and he is now anticipating that he will reach the Equator later than he expected.
Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa) will cross the Equator in around 36 hours, followed 24 hours later by Dominique Wavre(Mirabaud) who told web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that it could be his 20th crossing. In fact he had crossed it so many times that he was unsure of the exact figure.
|36° 21’13” N
28° 24’2” W
|23 °||14.5 nds
Armel Le Cléac´h
|35° 30’38” N
30° 2’47” W
|360 °||15.7 nds
|Virbac Paprec 3
|28° 55’27” N
35° 45’21” W
|1 °||10.7 nds
|27° 20’41” N
37° 12’32” W
|5 °||13.1 nds
Jean Le Cam
|5° 54’5” S
31° 57’60” W
|24 °||13.4 nds
|6° 19’18” S
31° 54’51” W
|19 °||14.6 nds
|12° 16’33” S
32° 6’5” W
|356 °||9.4 nds
|+1||14° 14’52” S
33° 12’12” W
|61 °||10.8 nds
|ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered
|-1||15° 44’9” S
28° 28’42” W
|319 °||8.2 nds
|Votre Nom Autour du||17° 59’34” S
34° 52’5” W
|13 °||12.0 nds
Tanguy De Lamotte
|24° 10’15” S
35° 30’18” W
|10 °||13.8 nds
Alessandro Di Benedetto
|37° 9’32” S
40° 32’15” W
|11 °||8.6 nds
Kito de Pavant
Breaking the finish line this Monday morning at 10hrs 20mins 36 seconds (UTC) Jean-Pierre Dick (45) and Loïck Peyron (51) have won the second edition of the Barcelona World Race on Virbac-Paprec 3, completing the 25,200 miles round the world race in 93 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds at an average speed of 11.18 knots.
For Jean-Pierre Dick the victory repeats his 2007-08 triumph in the inaugural edition of the round the world race for crews of two, when he won with Irish co-skipper Damian Foxall. Today’s win also adds an elusive round the world victory to Peyron’s two previous podium finishes, each ten years apart – second in 1989-90 in the inaugural Vendée Globe solo round the world race, and second in The Race in 2000, for fully crewed giant multihulls.
On arrival at the dock in Barcelona Jean-Pierre Dick described his feelings on winning a second consecutive Barcelona World Race: “A lot of emotions, quite indescribable, I am so happy to be here. I had my objective and today it has been satisfied. It is magical the way we won it together. Thanks Loïck for doing this race with me and putting up with me, magical to live three months among nature around the world, living our passion, and technologically it’s quite special. Thank-you and thank-you Barcelona for this race, it is ideal. Double handed around the world is fantastic. Thank-you also to my sponsors, I am very proud to have these people with me.”
The French duo highlighted their drive and pace when they set a new 24-hour speed record for IMOCA Open 60-footers of 506.33 miles on January 22nd (average speed 21.1kts)
Without doubt the success of their proven partnership amounts to more than the sum of its parts, even given Peyron’s 30 years of ocean racing successes and Dick’s incredible durability, his appetite for short handed and solo racing, his meticulous, scientific approach and delivery, and his remarkable trajectory towards the top of this exacting and demanding sailing discipline.
Their partnership has never been beaten on the oceans, winning the Transat Jacques Vabre together in 2005 when Dick defended the title he won with Nicolas Abiven. Dick, previously a full time business director who only really turned ‘professional’ in 2002, has joined the elite ranks of Michel Desjoyeaux and Bernard Stamm as the only skippers to have won two solo or two-handed round the world races.
Their winning course displays all the polished hallmarks of a near perfect execution. Their meteo and navigation strategy in each sea and each ocean, around the classic course, which takes in the three great Capes – Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn but which, uniquely for the genre, climbs from the south Pacific through the Cook Strait before descending just as quickly back to the hostile ocean – has been almost faultless.
The raw speed of Dick’s newest generation VPLP/designed IMOCA Open 60, launched in May last year in Auckland and with which he plans to challenge for the 2012 Vendée Globe, is now proven. As is the duo’s skill to sail it at the limit for long periods when pressed, but so too is their ability to sail defensively, maintaining high averages to preserve themselves and the boat in more extreme conditions.
Such attributes are underpinned by both skippers sharing the same bitter experience of retiring from the 2008-09 Vendée Globe with damage, both leading at different stages. Peyron spent more time in the lead than anyone before his mast broke, and Dick led in the Indian Ocean before sustaining rudder damage.
Though they made two technical stops for repairs, amounting to a time-out total of 63 hours in Brazil and Wellington, New Zealand, the Virbac-Paprec 3 pair stayed the course to fulfil their ranking as one of the pre-race favourites. Of the 14 IMOCA Open 60s which started off Barcelona on 31st December, four of which were otherwise considered potential winners or podium contenders, Président, Foncia, Groupe Bel and Mirabuad all retired with mast or keel failures.
Dick and Peyron led the race out through the Straits of Gibraltar on January 3rd and after re-taking the lead on January 23rd were never passed. The thrilling duel with Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart, which forced the red line higher and higher, came to an end when Foncia broke their topmast early on the morning of 25th January.
But Spain’s double Olympic 49er medallists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez in their first ever IMOCA Open 60 race as a duo had been second since Foncia withdrew. From Virbac-Paprec 3’s largest lead of 781 miles over MAPFRE on February 7, the Spanish pair pressed the leaders relentlessly, getting to within 8.3 miles of Dick and Peyron in the Pacific on 25th February. But, with a beautifully precise 30-mile hitch to the east to set up early in the South Atlantic high pressure system, the winners avoided the very worst of the light winds and made the better passage of the dominant anticyclone.
Though their difficult return through the Doldrums was as long, slow and challenging as either Dick or Peyron could recall over their careers, Virbac-Paprec 3 emerged with an advantage to build on over a final 16-day marathon upwind slog to lead back into Gibraltar.
Quotes from the winning skippers:
Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA): “This round the world race has been a mixture of lots of little things. We already knew each other and it was the joint experience of both of us skippers as individuals which was key to winning.
“We have a really good team, mutual understanding and great respect. We have known each other for a long time and it is for me a huge privilege to have been able to sail around the world with Loïck. A wonderful experience. We both wanted to win of course and our cohesion was focused on this victory.”
Asked if he would consider a third race: “I love Barcelona but I want to celebrate this first and then we will see. The Barcelona World Race is a magical race, it is a wonderful concept: double handed, with sunsets, whales, albatross – to be able to share this natural experience when you are passionate about the sea and can live this passion it is amazing.
Asked what made the difference for them: “A new boat, and in New Zealand the chance to make it more secure, to give us that extra reassurance. It is a very good boat, it performs really well and is latest generation. It was all very well-timed and that is an important part of our success.
“It is a great moment for me after three years of not winning; it was quite frustrating having to abandon the Vendée Globe when ahead, and then there was a year and a half wait whilst the boat was being built. To be successful and have fulfilled my objective iswonderful.
“There are a number of different images that will stay with me from the race. Cape Horn in particular, I have never been that close to it and we could really experience it directly being so close to land. Patagonia is magical – that is my most special moment.”
Loïck Peyron (FRA):
“It has been exceptional. My third round the world race. The first time was solo, the second with a team and this third time double-handed. And we have won – we led the race in spite of some tough competition. It was a fantastic experience and it is a fabulous feeling to finish and finish so well.
“Success comes from true cohesion – and we are both complementary. The savoir-faire of the solo sailing world means you really trust the other person. Success is also about having a good machine at your feet. We made a mistake last night – it was probably us relaxing a little before the arrival, but we did a good job.
“My most important memories are of the albatross – they are quite unique in the world and that part of the planet and we were lucky enough to see them.
“It has been a real example of teamwork by the ‘family’. It is a beautiful example of unity and I am delighted to have had the chance to experience it.
“It is magical to be in Barcelona again. The last time was with The Race and it is wonderful to be back again and this time with another beautiful story.”
January 4thafter taking the southerly option and finding more wind pressure on the Moroccan coast Virbac-Paprec 3 leads out of Gibraltar Straits, 3 days, 7 hours and 55 minutes after the start on 31st December in Barcelona (6 hours faster than 2007-8 edition when Dick and Foxall also led)
January 8thFoncia lead passing Madeira, Virbac-Paprec 3 after five days in front drop to second after small tactical error, with a compact top group including Président, Groupe Bel, and Neutrogena.
January 10th in strong downwind trade conditions speeds peak at 25kts, in a relentless driving pace and on January 11th Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia retire after breaking mast north of Cape Verdes.
On January 13th 2.5 m of mainsail traveller track rips away requiring technical stop in Recife, Brasil. Foncia also stop after damage to their crash box and an almost surreal F1 style pit-stop ensues. The two IMOCA Open 60s, which have been locked together since traversing the Atlantic from Martinique on the same ship after the Route du Rhum, and refitted in the same shed in Barcelona, now pit-stop in the same Brazilian dock. The rival crews even briefly end up sharing the same apartment! Virbac-Paprec 3’s total time stopped is 15 hours and they resume the course with a deficit of 277 miles.
January 18ththey are first to go into ghost mode as both the Recife twins choose long-term investment to the west, down the Brazilian coast which initially sacrifices miles to those on the more direct routing through the St Helena High, but the gains come with high speeds in strong winds. Virbac-Paprec 3 sets a new 24-hour world speed record for 60-footers at 506.33 miles, bettering the 2007-8 record set during the Barcelona World Race by Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape at 501.9 miles on Hugo Boss.
January 23rdDick and Peyron retake the lead and first round Cape of Good Hope. Early on the morning of 26th January the near-twins are finally parted when Foncia breaks their mast. Virbac-Paprec 3 lead MAPFRE by nearly 580 miles.
February 16thVirbac-Paprec 3 makes the minimum 48-hour stop in Wellington to repair batten cars, returning with their lead shrunk to 128 miles over MAPFRE.
February 25thVirbac-Paprec 3’s lead is just 8.3 miles over MAPFRE.
March 3rdVirbac-Paprec 3’s exciting passage of Cape Horn 140 miles ahead of MAPFRE.
March 4thMAPFRE stop briefly to sort out twisted halyards at entrance to Beagle Channel. Martinez and Fernandez lose about 80 miles.
March 5th-11ththe Saint Helena High strategy sees a huge accordion effect but Virbac-Paprec 3 accelerate away to lead of 545 miles over MAPFRE.
March 19thDoldrums: compression to 111 miles as the Doldrums move north with Dick and Peyron but on long beat to Gibraltar, Dick and Peyron lead at the longitude of Tarifa.
April 1stVirbac-Paprec 3 lead by about 30 hours at 0135hrs (UTC)
April 4th Virbac-Paprec 3cross the finish line at 1020hrs (UTC) winning the Barcelona World Race after 93 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds of racing.
Course record 2007-08 92 days 9 hours and 49 minutes
Theoretical course is 520 miles longer in 2010-11.
Virbac-Paprec 3 in ‘ghost’ mode
We Are Water prepare for the worst case scenario
Renault Z.E. third into northern hemisphere
‘Let’s play!’ commented Loick Peyron and Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA) from Virbac-Paprec 3 this morning as they entered ‘stealth’ mode at 1000hrs (UTC). Their position or rankings will not be visible for 36 hours, ensuring that their movements will remain hidden from view by the fleet and nearest rivals MAPFRE.
Tactically the forthcoming upwind section of Atlantic raises an interesting dilemma for the front-runners, and particularly for MAPFRE, 244 miles behind in this morning’s 0500hrs position report. The Azores High is expanding east-west across the north Atlantic, creating a large obstacle on the way to the Mediterranean. Whilst taking a westerly route looks like an unworkable tactic given the considerable extra mileage involved, the issue of when to tack east to avoid the centre of the anticyclone remains uncertain.
The GRIB files show stronger winds near the coast so by tacking early towards North Africa they will reach better pressure soonest, but will be sailing an unfavorable angle for longer. Carry on heading north as long as they dare and they will benefit from lifting pressure, but are at risk of getting trapped by the light winds at the centre of the high, while taking a ‘middle road’ between the two means avoiding the light winds in the lee of the Canary Islands. When to tack in, and when to tack back out? Timing will be everything, and by selecting stealth mode Virbac-Paprec 3 are hiding the clues for MAPFRE.
Battening the hatches
The situation is more serious on We Are Water. “The barometer has gone down to 956mb, we are preparing for the worst possible scenario,? emailed Jaume Mumbru (ESP) this morning, as he and Cali Sanmarti prepared to ride out what Barcelona World Race meteorologist Marcel van Triest predicted could be the worst Southern Ocean storm of the race due to a deep low pressure system.
The weather forecast for the area they are sailing in for the next 18 hours is severe: a south-westerly gale of 45-60 knots, gusting 75: a Force 12. In conjunction with the strong winds, huge seas are also predicted with a 9-12 metre swell. Heavy rain, squalls, and even snow are all likely as the winds are blowing directly from Antarctica, bringing bitingly cold dense air which makes the conditions all the more intense.
Jaume Mumbru reported from the boat around 1500hrs this afternoon that they were running away from the gale under storm jib only with zero mainsail, in around 55 knot (63mph or 101 km/h) winds. The pair were safely inside the boat, which was making around 11 knots in a north-easterly direction, and reported that although conditions were intensely cold, the wave pattern was better than anticipated with no confused cross-seas.
Battle for bronze
Just 118 miles divide the third to fifth-placed boats this afternoon as Renault Z.E., Estrella Damm and Neutrogena sweat it out in the Doldrums, where temperatures are soaring to over 30 degrees inside, making sleep during daytime almost impossible for some.
Renault Z.E. became the third boat to re-enter the northern hemisphere at 1445 (UTC) this afternoon, in what so far appears to be a relatively benign Doldrums crossing. Just 76 miles behind, Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes (ESP) remain solid in fourth, ahead of Ryan Breymaier (USA) and Boris Herrmann (GER) on Neutrogena. Ryan Breymaier explained today:
“There are position reports every six hours and I’m always looking on the map to see how many more miles we still have to cover, how fast, and when we’ll arrive. There are lots of things that can affect the rankings, the weather can change things quickly and as we saw from the start of the race the Mediterranean is not very easy for anyone to manage so we hope to be close to each other and still able to earn miles on them. But we don’t think too much about third place as I think with our damaged keel it’s going to be too difficult to get near enough.?
At 535 miles behind, Dee Caffari (GBR) and Anna Corbella (ESP) on GAES Centros Auditivos are also anticipating the light winds, as they require flat water to make laminating repairs to their leaking ballast tank. Instead they have experienced fluctuating and unpredictable breezes that Dee Caffari this morning described as a ‘practice Doldrums’, but are this afternoon once again making 10 knots.
Having exited yesterday’s brief but fierce low pressure system, Forum Maritim Catala and Hugo Boss are the fastest of the fleet over the past 24 hours, with just under 200 miles dividing the pair. With the depression having rapidly moved south-east, the race is now on for both to make sufficient ground north to avoid the chasing high and accompanying light winds. Forum Maritim Catala having gained over 80 miles on Hugo Boss over the past 24 hours, and the competition between the two is yet to be settled.
Standings at 1400hrs Wednesday 23rd March, 2011
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 in ‘ghost’ mode
2 MAPFRE at 3066,6 miles from the finish
3 RENAULT Z.E at 887,5 from the MAPFRE
4 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 963,5 miles
5 NEUTROGENA at 1005 miles
6 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 1540,8 miles
7 HUGO BOSS at 3558,1 miles
8 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 3749,4 miles
9 WE ARE WATER at 5462,2 miles
10 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 9371,2 miles
RTD GROUPE BEL
Quotes from today’s skippers:
Dee Caffari (GBR), GAES Centros Auditivos:
“It’s like a practice for the Doldrums that we’ve had. It’s a bit frustrating because we still can’t sail the boat at 100 per cent because we’re waiting to do the big repair, and yet we’re still really struggling with the conditions. But today’s been much better.
“I need to laminate some carbon over some damage in our ballast tanks that are structural to the boat. So we can’t sail the boat at 100 per cent because we’re upwind and we can’t afford the cracks to open up. But we can’t do the repair unless we’re in flat water to allow it to stick, so it’s a case of really looking after the boat.?
Ryan Breymaier (USA), Neutrogena:
“The Doldrums are going very well thus far, knock on wood. We have between 5 and 10 knots out of the breeze and it’s not stopped yet, so hopefully that continues.
“In these lighter conditions we’re not as compromised as we will be later on when there’s more wind and waves, so we’re pretty happy to be keeping up now and are differently worried about what’s going to happen when we get into the stronger upwind trade wind conditions a little later on. There is no real plan for it, the boat is the condition that it’s in and we do the best we can with what we have. At the moment that’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re going to continue to do – you know you can’t change reality, and the reality is we are not capable to cant the keel to the maximum and that compromises our speed all the time, Boris and I have accepted that and we just get on with our day to day work.
“The sun is an issue every day. Right now in the cabin it’s 32 degrees and outside it’s probably 36, I don’t know – a lot! For me more than Boris I get burned very easily and I have factor 50 suncream at least every day and wear hats and that kind of stuff, so it’s a real problem for sure, especially in this area. I would’ve told you six weeks ago that the heat really bothered me a lot, but it was awfully cold down in the south for a long period of time! But all things considered though I would say the heat is worse than the cold though, and I think Boris agrees with me.?
At 2005hrs (UTC) this evening, Tuesday February 15, Virbac-Paprec 3 skipper Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA) contacted Denis Horeau, Race Director of the Barcelona World Race, to report that he and co-skipper Loick Peyron (FRA) wished to make a technical stop in Wellington, having broken two mainsail batten cars in the previous hour as they reefed the mainsail.
The batten cars are an essential part on the IMOCA 60, holding the mainsail to the mast. Virbac-Paprec 3 report that they have already used their other spare batten car to repair a breakage shortly after Recife, where the team first made a technical stop to fix damage to the mainsheet track. They will also take the opportunity to work on some other wear and tear incurred during the race.
The stopover is unscheduled and Virbac-Paprec 3 have no technical support crew in Wellington. The only team member present in New Zealand is team manager Luc Talbourdet who was there to greet the crew during their anticipated passage close to shore. However Luc Bartissol, who was the technical manager for the build of their previous boat, Paprec-Virbac 2, lives in New Zealand and will be assisting with the repair. Other suppliers who were involved in the build of Virbac-Paprec 3 will also be called in to help.
The race rules state that any stopover after 140 degrees East must be for a minimum duration of 48 hours once the boat arrives at the dock. This is unlike Virbac-Paprec 3’s previous stopover in South America, after which they were able to depart and resume racing as soon as the repairs had been made good.
The current Barcelona World Race leaders had rounded the top of Farewell Spit at the north-eastern edge of New Zealand’s South Island at 1815hrs this evening, en route to Cook Strait, a compulsory leg of the course which takes the fleet past the capital city, Wellington.
Virbac-Paprec 3are expected to arrive in Wellington at some point over the course of tonight (European time, equivalent to the during the day of Wednesday 16 February, New Zealand local time).
Jean-Pierre Dickspoke to his team by telephone this evening, saying: “We replaced the two broken pieces late this afternoon. We have no more spares to finish the race and have no confidence in the replacements. So we have a sword of Damocles over our heads because they are indispensible for us to complete the second half of the circumnavigation. Without them, we cannot sail. To continue is to take a big risk. Stopping is the best solution even if it’s a tough decision because it means a 48-hour time penalty. We need to restart at virtually the same time as our pursuers. It’s a new race that starts then, just as we have known in Recife! We won’t give up.
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…?
The course is very long and, as he very well knows much can happen when racing around the world but Jean-Pierre Dick sailed into the second week of his second Barcelona World RACE in the same position as his first: leading the pack.
Were he blessed with a moment today to cast his mind back, Dick, might recall that in the 2007-8 race he lead into the second week by around 15 miles. One week in his nearest rival was Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou, sailing with Seb Josse. Today, as his closest challenger is also the current Vendée Globe champion, Michel Desjoyeaux, with François Gabart on Foncia. And as the second week rolled in this afternoon, Virbac-Paprec 3’s lead is around 12 miles.
And the passage time to the Canaries from Barcelona should be quite similar last time to this edition, although this time the skippers have free reign to pass the Canaries as they wish.
In the first race Paprec-Virbac, the Farr designed predecessor to Dick’s new IMOCA Open 60, took 7 days 19 hours 01 minute for the elapsed time from Barcelona to what was the edition’s Canaries gate, set between Grand Canaria and Fuerteventura.
This afternoon at 1600hrs UTC, with 7 days 3 hours elapased since the start Dick and Peyron were 45 miles north of that latitude, making just under 8 knots.
The leading duo were set to pass close to the west side of the Canaries’ most western island La Palma later this evening, although both the Virbac-Paprec duo and their pursuers on Foncia have had a testing day working downwind in light and fickle sailing conditions.
The duel between third placed Mirabaud and Estrella Damm continues with the Barcelona duo Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes, fourth, are looking set to invest in a more westerly course, taking a delicate route between a light wind zone to their left, and the encroaching high pressure area spreading from west, but seeming to signal a desire to get well west of the Canaries.
Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret have made a gain of about 10 miles on their Spanish rivals over the course of the day, a solid third on the leaderboard, 70 miles behind the leaders. The couple, at this point in the last race were more than twice that distance behind Dick and Damian Foxall (IRL), and lay seventh.
Meantime the group immediately behind have been dealing with the problem of passing through the E and SE of Madeira. Some have almost certainly strayed too close and were slowed in lighter winds through the lee of the high ground on the islands. Notably Dee Caffari (GBR) today rued their late decision on GAES Centros Auditivos to change from a westerly passage to the east, losing some miles on their near rivals. And after their charge down the east side of the group, making big gains yesterday the duo on Président, Jean Le Cam (FRA) and Bruno Garcia (ESP) were struggling this afternoon in light winds.
At home in England recovering from his emergency appendectomy 48 hours before the start of the race, landbound Alex Thomson had the bonus of being able to be at the birth of his and partner Kate Denham’s first child, a boy called Oscar.
Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Virbac-Paprec 3: “Our summary of the first week is very positive. We are in front. What more could we ask for? If we would have liked a little more then it would not to have been stuck for a couple of hours last night approaching Madeira.
On board the atmosphere is constructive and we look forward to carrying on like that. The next 36 hours will be difficult with light winds. After that we will be in the trade winds. We just work to what feels right just now for us both. Loick shouted at me because I sleep with my head torch on.”
François Gabart (FRA), Foncia:“Since the start, the conditions have not been easy, many operation and manoeuvres, many questions and strategic questions, especially yesterday dealing with the front. I am pretty happy because I feel we have sailed pretty well, even if we are not leading. But we are doing everything to catch up with those in front.”
Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos:“We are disappointed with our position today. Last night we were late making a tactical decision as we were originally aiming to head west of Madeira taking the same route as Virbac- Paprec 3 and Foncia. We realised too late that we would not make it far enough west and turned south to head leeward of the islands but that has put us too close and we are caught in the wind shadow of Madeira, slowing us right down.
The previous 48 hours have been full on and we have not been looking after ourselves. The change in conditions overnight have meant that we have been able to sleep and eat so we feel a million times better and are ready for the fight ahead. We are hopeful that we can make good the miles lost and the lighter conditions will allow us to catch up on the guys ahead.”