What's in the ice box?
Today the boats are converging with the southern extremity of the ‘ice box’ they are obliged to remain south of. The bottom of this box lies along a line at 40°N, between 51 and 47°W. To put this into perspective, this is at the same latitude as Porto in Portugal (New York is in fact further north, at 41°N). This ‘ice box’ is a long way south - without it the shortest course across the Atlantic would take the boats as far north as 44°N.
“It is a very extreme season for icebergs,” explains Race Director, Jacques Caraes. “We’ve never seen them so far south – that’s why we have the ice box.”
At 10:30 UTC race leader Safran was some 35 miles southwest of the southwestern end of the ice box. Since exiting the depression Safran has continuously been the most southerly of the four remaining competitors. However this morning she came off the wind a little and by taking a hitch to the north was able to position herself to ‘cover’ (get directly in front of) her competitors, who have slowly been making inroads into her lead (Hugo Boss currently trails her by 32 miles).
As the boats have been exiting the depression, the wind has been dropping gradually, but it has also been quite variable in strength, from 10-20 knots as squalls have passed through. This has required the crews to make continual sail changes as they attempt to extract the maximum speed from their boats. On board second placed Hugo Boss, Spanish crewman Pepe Ribes admitted that they had lost some ground last night when they had had to bear away to furl a sail and they had since had to come up slightly (and lose speed) in order to stay south of the ice box.
They have been monitoring the Gulf Stream to see if there were any east-bound eddies that might favour them. However generally Ribes warned: “Over the next two days we can't do anything to catch Safran.”
On board third placed Team Neutrogena, Guillermo Altadill also reported that the wind had dropped after a night of blistering speeds with the wind regularly in the mid-20s. He was also expecting the wind to free them up slightly as they approached the ice box. However Altadill, the Spanish round the world veteran racer, admitted that Neutrogena has an ‘unspecified’ problem with her mainsail which he says they are going to have to address now. “Before it was not important because we had two reefs, but now it is, because the wind has dropped to 12-14 knots.”
Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos said they'd seen 16 knots of wind from 230deg. “It’s quite cloudy with some showers but much quieter than it’s been so far. The truth is we do not really feel colder - it’s warm rather than cold.”
She and co-skipper Gerard Marin carried out several sail changes over the night, mainly between the Solent and staysail jibs, but Corbella said that this hadn’t been stressful. Her and Marin’s focus at present are their rivals Altadill and his Chilean crewman José Muñoz: “Our battle is with Neutrogena and we hope to take some more miles out of them. The others we would like to catch but they are faster. So if there is any tactical opportunity, some little tactics we can play, then we might be able to gain something.”