Preparing for the off
The reason behind the four day delay to the restart was to allow the fleet’s solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans, the opportunity to repair his Open 40 Roaring Forty following a collision with a container ship in the closing stages of Leg 4 from Ilhabela, Brazil.
Progress at Pierside Boatworks in Charleston has been rapid and the boat is ready for relaunching. “We’re now refitting the deck gear and closing up the ballast tanks,” reported Kleinjans late on Monday, “and we hope to be in the water later today.” With two clear days remaining before start on Thursday, the Belgian solo sailor is keen to test the boat: “I would like to go for a sail before the start, but I’m totally confident with the repair,” says Kleinjans. “The lamination is great and due to a shortage of time we have had to leave the repaired area just painted with primer and will finish the painting in Europe.”
With the port side of Roaring Forty taking the majority of the collision impact around the hull-deck joint and the chainplates, the repair has to be bullet proof. “The team working on the repair work really knew what they were doing,” reassures Kleinjans. “In fact, the boat is now even stronger than it was before and everyone working on the boat has said the she was very strongly built in the first place.”
While Kleinjans has been kept busy overseeing the repairs to his yacht, the British double-handed team of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli have had a very relaxed stop over with Thomson returning to England and Salvesen enjoying the hospitality of South Carolina with friends and family. “It has gone really well,” reports Salvesen. “There hasn’t been much work to do on the boat and after the first couple of days we could get on with enjoying ourselves travelling around and playing some golf.” The bulk of repair work has been to the sail wardrobe explains Salvesen: “North Sails have been repairing some delamination to the mainsail and putting some patches on the spinnakers, but other than some food shopping, we’re set to go.”
The British skipper who took up sailing only three years ago is looking forward to the final leg of the circumnavigation. “We’re going to have some interesting weather across the North Atlantic and there’s the ice gate to cope with,” he explains. “There is also the Grand Banks area which could be horrible. The prospect of thick fog combined with a Force 8 gale is not attractive.” After seven months racing around the planet, Salvesen is also keen to reach home waters. “I’m also really looking forward to getting back to Europe,” he adds. “It’s strange, but I’ve missed it much more than I thought I would.”
For the race leaders Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer, their dominance in the scoring means that overall victory in the Portimão Global Ocean Race is confirmed and the German team have had an enormous media schedule since arriving in Charleston. “We had German TV and magazines coming out sailing with us and this took up the first ten days of the stop over,” says Herrmann. “Then we could finally take a day off.” Fortunately, repair work to Beluga Racer has been light. “We still have one autopilot to service and we have had both the rudders out and checked,” he continues. “But we’re ready to go.” For co-skipper Felix Oehme, the Charleston stopover has been highly enjoyable. “Everything has gone very well,” he confirms. “We’re waiting for a few spare parts and we’ve just been given a couple of new halyards by our sponsor, but it is well under control.” The atmosphere and hospitality in South Carolina has also made a deep impression upon the young German. “The family we were staying with are very lovely,” says Oehme. “They are a sailing family and instinctively knew what we needed during the stop over,” he explains. “There was internet, the fridge was open to everybody, there was a great garden to relax in and they even offered us a car. Just really kind people and very easy to get on with.”
As has been the case in every stop over throughout the Portimão Global Ocean Race, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz returned to Chile for a short break and to celebrate the most important day in the Chilean Navy’s calendar. “May 21st is a very big day for the Chilean Navy,” explains Cubillos. “On this day we remember Commander Arturo Prat and The Battle of Iquique.” During the war with Peru in 1879, Prat’s Chilean corvette Esmeralda engaged the enemy ironclad Huáscar and was rammed by the Peruvian warship. “His boat was only small and wooden, so he leapt onto the decks of the ironclad and his bravery has been a rallying cry for our navy ever since.” Despite being cut down by gunfire, Prat’s example survives in the collective Chilean memory. “Yes, I suppose a lot of Chileans are very brave and slightly crazy!” agrees Cubillos.
During the stop over, two new rudders for Desafio Cabo de Hornos were shipped from France and fitted by a technician from the French yard and the Chilean team have a new spinnaker donated by a supporter who has chosen to remain anonymous. With preparation well advanced, Cubillos and Muñoz are able to plot the North Atlantic leg. “I was talking with José this morning about it,” said Cubillos on Monday. “We will not win the round-the-world race overall – although I think we deserved to – so we will win the most symbolic, final leg,” he continues. “I love impossible dreams and this race is all about that. It makes you know that you are alive.”
For the Chilean duo, a new goal has been located. “We won Leg 3 which was the longest and most difficult leg of the circumnavigation,” says Cubillos. “So we don’t just want to win the final leg, we want to be the boat with the shortest time on the water for the entire race.” Throughout the Portimão Global Ocean Race, Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos have finished each leg exceptionally close together. In Leg 1, the two boats were separated by three hours at the Cape Town finish line; in Wellington, New Zealand, at the finish of Leg 2 the time difference was very similar; after 7,500 miles and 40 days in Leg 3, Beluga Racer finished under an hour behind Desafio Cabo de Hornos and in Leg 4 the deficit was 17 hours following rudder damage to the Chilean boat. With a lead of approximately 22 hours required, Cubillos and Muñoz will have to race extremely hard. “We want to be the fastest boat in the race arriving in Portimão,” states the Chilean skipper. “We are going to have to sail more aggressively and in a more radical way, but at least we are going to do our best.”