With the fleet currently split with Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli trailing the Chileans by 187 miles and solo sailor Michel Kleinjans following the British duo 71 miles astern on Roaring Forty, the light airs may provide an opportunity for the division within the fleet to close. However, for Roaring Forty and Team Mowgli, the calmer conditions have arrived with immaculate timing giving both teams an opportunity to make vital repairs.
For Michel Kleinjans, keeping a close watch on repairs made to the collision damage sustained during Leg 4 has been a priority. “Everything is pretty much OK,” reported Kleinjans on Sunday. “There’s a small leak in the port ballast tank, but the repair is holding and there’s no movement.” However, an unexpected breakage has occurred. “On Saturday night the bow fitting on the bobstay broke,” he confirms. This line - running from the outboard end of the yacht’s carbon fibre bowsprit down to a stainless steel pad eye laminated into the stem just above the waterline - is an essential support, countering the upward load on the bowsprit from large, offwind headsails. “This was something I wanted to change before starting the race, so I should be happy that it lasted so long!”
Although the mast is secure with the forestay running to a fitting on the deck of the bow, a repair will mean that Kleinjans must suspend himself over the bow to reach the pad eye on the stem. “I’ll try and fix something with ropes, otherwise I’ll be limited to sailing with the jib or trying to fly the spinnaker from the bow,” he advises. The Charleston stop over and the long hours spent repairing the boat have had an effect on the Belgian solo sailor. “I didn’t push enough in the first 48 hours and have been literally left behind,” admits Kleinjans. “But I was really pretty tired.”
The hard sailing on Team Mowgli has also caused problems. “Early on Saturday night as we were sailing downwind with the big spinnaker up in 22 knots of wind and quite big seas, the autopilot suddenly stopped working and the tillers jammed,” explains Jeremy Salvesen. “As David steadied the boat as best he could, I dived below to see what the problem was and found the NKE autopilot ram had ripped free from its mountings, pulling through the glass fibre fittings.”
With the equipment hanging from its wiring, swapping over to the spare pilot was mandatory. “It was only then - of course - that we discovered we also had a problem with the secondary back up pilot! We fixed the wiring but we still couldn't get it to work properly at all. Nothing for it but to helm all night and leave things until the morning.” In the light of the following day, a fix was made. “With some spare sheets of glass fibre we then made a couple of plates, drilled holes and fixed these to the old pilot mounting with strong glue and finally by the afternoon we were up and running again,” says Salvesen.
Adding to the pilot problems, the British duo have been occupied with sail repairs. “We still have a few other small problems to deal with, in particular ongoing trouble with our main sail,” confirms Salvesen. “We had this repaired by North Sails in Charleston, but there is a significant area of delamination which they were unable to do much about. This is now starting to creep and there is a small area which has come free completely which we will have to glue and patch to try and stop it spreading further. We also had some patching to do on the Solent which now seems to be working well.”
For the leading Chilean duo on Desafio Cabo de Hornos the next few days are a key factor. “From a competitive point of view we have continued increasing our advantage to 60 miles,” reports Felipe Cubillos. “But we know that it is still very little and Monday is an important day because the wind dies and everything can change.” Currently making just over nine knots, the team are managing one knot faster than their German rivals. “Later, at least until Thursday - the date we will probably reach the scoring gate - the conditions will remain stable and calm,” he predicts.
Sailing without wind speed and direction data has already become part of life on board the Chilean Class 40. “To sail with no instruments definitely tastes very special,” says Cubillos. “We only use the tell tales on the sails and strands of wool in the shrouds and the sensation of the wind on our faces instead of being focussed and hypnotised by the digital instruments.” To ease the strain of blank cockpit readouts, The Chilean skipper devised a plan. “For José’s wellbeing, I’ve put some data on the instrument screens. It’s all useless information, of course, but it hides the reality that we do not have wind data. However, I’m convinced that room temperature, the temperature of the water, the atmospheric pressure, the depth, etc. are super important….really!”
For Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer, the change in wind strength and direction was an important tactical moment. “Obviously, ‘The Reds’ did a better job of dealing with the front and shift,” observed Oehme on Sunday. “I wonder if they sailed with spinnaker or Code 5 during the strong winds?” he wonders. Cubillos has admitted that he flew his precious new spinnaker until a large black cloud appeared astern and the sail was dropped shortly before a gust of 40 knots arrived. “The gap between us is huge,” continues Oehme, “but this leg should provide options for gains and losses for us all.” Currently averaging 8.5 knots, the German team are watching and waiting. “The dramas throughout this race have always happened in light airs with the boats slowing so dramatically,” reasons Oehme. “We will keep an eye on them and wait for chances to turn things around with the patience and confidence the Chileans have taught us during this long race.”
With the fleet situated 600 miles off the coast of North America, the boats are in a very busy shipping area and a lookout is vital. “There is a lot of commercial traffic in this area,” reports Oehme. “Yesterday Boris spoke to a cruise ship on VHF radio and it’s good to know that they spotted us on their radar from a distance of seven miles and could see our AIS signal as well.” For Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli, contact with shipping has also been made. “We had a good chat with the skipper of the sail training schooner, Virginia, as they sailed towards Bermuda and passed close by our stern,” says Salvesen. “Good to have a friendly voice on the radio - unlike the big ships that just steam past in silence - some of them frighteningly close.”
Untroubled by commercial shipping, Felipe Cubillos could reflect on the race in the calm conditions following the relentless days of strong, explosive winds. “As I was sitting in the cockpit looking at the moon, I realized that this is penultimate Sunday that we will be at sea in this round the world race,” he explained yesterday. “In my heart, thousands of emotions and sensations flooded in about the times we have lived during these months. The strong memories shared with José of our passage round Cape Horn and we remembered our families and friends that were waiting there for us. That was a very beautiful day.”
Leaderboard 0620 UTC Monday 8 June:
1. Desafio Cabo de Hornos – DTL 0.0nm Spd 9.1 kts
2. Beluga Racer – DTL 62nm Spd 8.5 kts
3. Team Mowgli – DTL 187nm Spd 7.9 kts
1. Roaring Forty – DTL 0.0nm Spd 5.3 kts