Germans through the gate

Herrmann and Oehme 21 hours astern of Chileans in Portimão Global Ocean Race

Saturday June 13th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
At 1800 UTC on Friday evening, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme crossed the Portimão Global Ocean Race Leg 5 Scoring Gate in second place on Beluga Racer 600 miles south-east of Newfoundland. Despite crossing the gate 21 hours behind the Chilean team of Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos, Herrmann and Oehme have now secured overall victory in the circumnavigation: an honour that cannot be removed by any finish line position or by being scored DNF in Leg 5.

The German duo have set the benchmark for tactics, navigation and endurance during the Portimão Global Ocean Race with finish line dominance in Legs 1, 2 and 4 and have taken maximum points at every scoring gate except the Leg 5 North Atlantic gate and celebrations for the Beluga Team will be immense as Herrmann and Oehme have now sailed straight into the record books. There is, however, the enormous prestige at stake for finishing first in Portimão and current conditions are causing the fleet to compress rapidly.

Over the past two days, the barrier of the Azores High has been the focal point for the leading boats with Cubillos and Muñoz - currently 600 miles west of the Azores Archipelago – feeling the effects first and slowing dramatically soon after their victory at the Leg 5 Scoring Gate on Thursday. Overnight, Beluga Racer in second place and Team Mowgli holding third in the double-handed fleet have both slowed as they enter the western edge of the high pressure system.

In the latest 0620 UTC position poll this morning (13/06), Desafio Cabo de Hornos have slowed to 3.3 knots having maintained between 5-7 knots throughout the night. For Beluga Racer, this has meant huge gains with Herrmann and Oehme halving the distance to the Chilean boat since Friday morning. Currently, the German duo are 48 miles behind Desafio Cabo de Hornos and although boat speed on Beluga Racer has been declining since mid-evening yesterday, they are still averaging 6.8 knots: twice the speed of Cubillos and Muñoz.

For Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli, the past 24 hours have been highly profitable with the British Class 40 consistently polling the highest averages in the fleet. Although boat speed has dropped from ten knots to just under seven knots in the past few hours, Salvesen and Thomson have recovered a great distance on the leaders, wiping just under 100 miles from the deficit to Desafio Cabo de Hornos since Friday morning and Team Mowgli now trail the Chileans by 222 miles. Furthest south in the fleet, Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty is handicapped by breakage to his starboard D1 and has dropped back to almost 300 miles behind Team Mowgli, but has yet to feel the effects of the Azores High and has maintained averages of between 6-8 knots since mid-evening yesterday.

For Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos, watching the lead they held diminish is an unavoidable certainty. “We have entered a completely different meteorological system than the German boat, which explains why our speeds are so different,” reported Cubillos on Friday. “I confess that we are in a place that we really don’t want to be. It’s the wrong place, wrong time. We would have liked to have gone north, but there just wasn’t the right wind angle.” With current weather models suggesting the Chilean team have approximately 7-8 knots of south-easterly breeze, while the German team have around 10 knots, the future looks uncertain. “The meteorologists predict that the wind will shift to the east, but this hasn’t happened yet and it looks as though we will be stuck with light airs for some time,” he continues. With the German team advancing rapidly and Team Mowgli making up lost miles, Cubillos and Muñoz are bracing themselves. “We are preparing ourselves psychologically to lose all the advantage that we have,” advises the Chilean skipper. “In fact, this scenario was already on the cards on Thursday. So we’re looking for every knot of speed because on this boat, we never give up!”

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