Herrmann and Oehme claim overall honours
Becalmed just seven miles west of the finish line in Portimão, the breeze began to build, then drop again as, Herrmann and Oehme made a succession of tacks into light wind blowing directly down the Arade River and at a right angle to the finish line between the breakwaters at the river’s mouth. Tacking onto starboard just metres from the western breakwater, Beluga Racer crossed the line after 16 days 17 hours 34 minutes and 42 seconds of racing from Charleston, South Carolina. “It really wasn’t like the other legs,” said Boris Herrmann shortly after he and Oehme cracked open champagne on the VIP race pontoon at the Tivoli Hotel. “There was the whole thing of ‘can we win overall, will we be second or third?’ I tell you, I’m really happy to be here”. The damage sustained to the mast on Beluga Racer early in Leg 5 potentially threw the German’s dominance in the points table into doubt, but a robust, temporary repair and immaculate seamanship ensured that Beluga Racer completed the circumnavigation.
Herrmann and Oehme set the benchmark for sailing early in the circumnavigation crossing the Leg 1 scoring gate off Recife, Brazil, in first place and then finishing first at the stopover in Cape Town, South Africa, just a matter of hours ahead of Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on the Chilean Class 40, Desafio Cabo de Hornos. The young German duo continued to dominate the leaderboard taking the Leg 2 scoring gate first and finishing the Indian Ocean section of the race three hours ahead of the Chilean duo.
During Leg 3, from Wellington, New Zealand, to Ilhabela, Brazil, Beluga Racer once again triumphed at the scoring gate mid-Pacific Ocean, but were overtaken by the Chileans before rounding Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Entering the Atlantic Ocean, the German team showed every sign of taking first place in Brazil until the Chilean team stole first place, overtaking Herrmann and Oehme just a few miles from the finish line. Leg 4 from Brazil to Charleston saw the biggest time deficit at the finish line between the German and Chilean rivals with Beluga Racer returning to form and taking the scoring gate and finish line in first place.
In Charleston, shortly before the start of Leg 5, Cubillos and Muñoz set themselves the goal of becoming the fastest boat on the water for the entire circumnavigation: a priority requiring that the Germans finish 23 hours behind the bright red Chilean Class 40. Although this additional competition within the race scored no extras points, considerable honour was at stake with the deadline reached at 10:30:12 UTC this morning. After a tense period before the finish line when it almost seemed the breeze would never arrive and Beluga Racer punched the ebb tide, Herrmann and Oehme completed the 33,000 mile circumnavigation just two hours and 25 minutes before the elapsed time barrier dropped and now hold the fastest elapsed time for the Portimão Global Ocean Race.
For Boris Herrmann, the finish of the Portimão Global Ocean Race signals the start of a busy season with Beluga Racer. “The next campaign is the full Class 40 season with the Rolex Fastnet Race on a newer boat and then the Solidaire du Chocolat,” he confirms. “This race has been a real motivation for me,” admits Herrmann. “I remember in the Southern Ocean I immediately knew I wanted to return there,” continues the German skipper. “To experience again that special place and the weather down there that you just don’t get anywhere else. I really want to go back there single-handed in an Open 60 in a couple of years.” The German duo’s success in the Portimão Global Ocean Race has elevated Herrmann and Oehme into the media spotlight. “The media is strange in round the world racing,” says Herrmann. “Sometimes – as in the Vendée Globe – you can get more media by not winning, like Ellen MacArthur and more recently, Sam Davis and Steve White.” Both the Germans realise the value of media in sponsorship terms and are skilled in supplying text, images and video footage of a very high quality. For Herrmann, this is not a burden that detracts from pure racing: “It’s not just about sailing and racing out there,” he admits. “It’s important to try and capture the real feeling and engage other people in the experience. That’s just another interesting challenge.”
While the teams from Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Beluga Racer celebrate completing the circumnavigation – once they have finished throwing each other off the VIP pontoon in the Arade River – two boats in the Portimão Global Ocean Race are still racing through the North Atlantic. For solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Open 40 Roaring Forty, the endless headwinds he has encountered in the Azores Archipelago may be nearing an end. In the 1020 UTC position poll this morning, the Belgian yachtsman is 70 miles due east of São Miguel - the most easterly island in the group - and is making 5.8 knots with 702 miles of Leg 5 remaining. On Sunday evening, the wind should turn northerly as Kleinjans approaches the centre of the Azores High and - with luck - the breeze may swing north-westerly as the high-pressure system slides north, giving Roaring Forty some stable, offwind conditions.
For Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on third place double-handed Class 40 Team Mowgli, conditions have gone light with the British duo averaging 5.6 knots, 150 miles west of Cape Saint Vincent. Weather models suggest that Salvesen and Thomson have around 4-5 knots of north-westerly breeze; a scenario the two yachtsmen foresaw yesterday. “All is well on board as we get closer and closer to the finish,” reported Salvesen on Saturday. “Apart that is from the weather, which is about to let us down!” he adds. “We have been sailing for the last few days in steady 20-25 knots of wind and later tonight there is a danger of losing it altogether for half a day or so. That said, the most recent forecast looks more encouraging than the last and there is so often a way through these systems without ever really feeling the brunt of the light airs. So, here's hoping - if all of you guys can do a wind dance for us this evening, so much the better!”
With forecasts predicting a slight rise in wind late on Sunday, the remaining 163 miles are going to feel very long. “We know there is cold beer waiting and the party has already started and we have friends and family waiting for us,” says Salvesen. “NO!! We are not allowed to think about that now, just get on with sailing…..not far to go!”
Leaderboard 0920 UTC Sunday 21 June
1. Desafio Cabo de Hornos – 15d 21h 07m 05s
2. Beluga Racer – 16d 17h 34m 42s
3. Team Mowgli – DTF 163nm Spd 5.6kts
1. Roaring Forty – DTF 702nm Spd 5.8kts