45 miles to go

Chileans expected in this afternoon on the final leg of the the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Saturday June 20th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
At 0400 UTC this morning, the Portimão Global Ocean Race Leg 5 leaders, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos were 40 miles west of Cape Saint Vincent with just 45 miles of the 33,000 mile circumnavigation remaining. “The wind will drop as we approach the coast and the German boat will make gains,” predicted Cubillos on Friday. “They’ll keep the wind and there’s nothing that can be done to avoid this,” he confirms. Although the Chilean Class 40 is currently delivering 8.6 knots, weather models suggest that the breeze will drop for the final approach along Portugal’s southern coast and at sunrise today on Portimão’s famous Praia de Rocha beach, just west of the finish line, there is barely a breath of wind.

“We’ll keep hard at it and cross the finish line at around noon on Saturday,” continues Cubillos, “and we’ll cross the line victorious with the Chilean flag flying! In the final hours of this circumnavigation I want to share with you some of my thoughts,” says the Chilean skipper. “Thoughts on a race that I am already becoming nostalgic about although it isn’t even over yet! First, though, I must thank José without reservation as he is a great sailor, a great navigator and a great companion,” he admits, before continuing with a 22 point manifesto-for-life of exceptional insight, honesty and wit. Due to space in this update and the time taken to translate this revealing and entertaining body of work, the Chilean polymath’s thoughts will remain unpublished until the update reporting the team’s finish.

Further offshore and trailing the Chilean team by 148 miles, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer are currently matching the speed of the Chilean team and sent Cubillos and Muñoz a congratulatory email late last night. “You have raced a fantastic leg!” wrote the German duo. “In a couple of hours you will cross the ultimate finish line as winners of the leg! You passed Cape Horn fist and the final finish line is yours as well,” observed Boris Herrmann. “Both of the symbolic highlights of the race: and you are in front. We are very happy for you to have this great moment! We would have liked to win this leg as well, but you did a better race from the start line onwards.” The German skipper is quick to avoid blaming the broken top spreader on Beluga Racer for the Chilean’s victory in the final leg: “We were slowed down with the mast problems, but I am not sure if the result would be different if it hadn’t broken, so congratulations to the two of you!”

Currently 360 miles off Portugal’s western coast and 181 miles behind Herrmann and Oehme, the British duo of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli - holding third place in the double-handed fleet - are on top form. “We had an incredible, exhilarating and somewhat terrifying encounter with a group of three enormous whales yesterday,” reports Salvesen. “They followed us, or we followed them, for more than half an hour and at times it was almost as if they were playing in our bow wave like dolphins,” he continues. “Often they were no more than 30 metres from the boat and they were just cruising along at six or seven knots, the same speed as ourselves. These incredible animals can hold their breath for half an hour or more, but these guys were up and down every few minutes with a great blow of spray, often close enough you could feel it on your face.”

However, this incredible display came with a considerable risk. “We knew that if we hit one, or if one breached under or too close to us, it would spell complete disaster for us, but there was absolutely nothing we could do about it,” explains the British skipper. “Sometimes the three of them would all surface together on one side of the boat and then they would split either side, or all come up just in front. Where were we to go, what were we to do?” asks Salvesen. “We were sure they had seen us - we have a three metre long, very bright orange keel - so we sat and stood and filmed, with our hearts in our mouths, just full of awe.”

While the double-handed class close in on the coast and the finish line, solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Open 40 Roaring Forty still has 900 miles remaining as he sails through the Azores Archipelago. At 0400 UTC today, Kleinjans is forced to continue tacking into 15 knot north-easterly headwinds to clear the islands and is just 15 miles north of Terceira Island. With the likelihood of increased fishing, ferry and commercial traffic within the remote island group, the past few days will have been stressful and highly demanding for Belgium’s most illustrious solo sailor.

Leaderboard 0400 UTC Saturday 20 June:
Double-handed class
1. Desafio Cabo de Hornos – DTL 0.0nm Spd 8.6kts DTF 45nm
2. Beluga Racer – DTL 148nm Spd 8.2kts DTF 194nm
3. Team Mowgli – DTL 329nm Spd 7.2kts DTF 375nm
Single-handed class
1. Roaring Forty – DTL 0.0nm Spd 7.1kts DTF 900nm

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