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Beluga Racer claims leg four of the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Sunday May 17th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Shortly after midnight GMT, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme crossed the finish line of Leg 4 in the Portimão Global Ocean Race off Charleston, South Carolina, at 00:49:47 GMT (18:49:47 local on Saturday) after 21 days 08 hours, 49 minutes and 47 seconds after 4,800 miles of racing from the tropical island of Ilhabela, Brazil, on board Class 40 Beluga Racer. The German team crossed the finish line at twilight making 12 knots under full main and gennaker in approximately 15 knots of breeze.

As soon as Herrmann and Oehme crossed the line, a RIB pulled alongside and Oehme’s father and stepmother climbed onboard to greet their victorious son having not seen him for seven months since the start of the race in Portimão, Portugal, last year. As the celebrations continued onboard, Hermann Oehme and his wife helped the young German duo sail the boat to City Marina, Charleston.

This win nets Herrmann and Oehme an extra two points for crossing the scoring gate off Recife in first place after a week at sea on 1st May and a further ten points for the overall leg win, bringing the German team’s total to 46 points with one transatlantic leg from Charleston to Portimão remaining to complete the circumnavigation. With their nearest rivals, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos, set to total 39 points when they finish racing in Leg 4, the German team just has to complete the final leg to win the event overall even if their Chilean adversaries take the Leg 5 scoring gate points and the finish line points.

“It’s almost a sad feeling that the race feels a bit like it is over,” explained Boris Herrmann with deep regret as Beluga Racer cruised towards the marina after crossing the line. “Of course we had a good fight, but it is a great shame that the Chileans broke their rudder and we were disappointed to lose that tension that they always put on us.” The competition will recommence with the restart from Charleston on 31st May and Herrmann is already excited about the challenge as the honour of winning the final leg of the race is immeasurable and the transatlantic crossing will be intensely fought. “I’m looking forward already to the next leg as the Chileans will be really motivated and we can have a really hard race to Portimão,” he commented.

For co-skipper Felix Oehme, Leg 4 was a revelation: “In the beginning of the leg we were frustrated until we cleared the Doldrums and then we discovered a totally new side of the boat that we hadn’t found before,” says Oehme. The Germans unearthed a new sweet spot at a 100° True Wind Angle: a sailing angle that was a potential weakness for Beluga Racer and a perfect wind angle for the Chileans on Desafio Cabo de Hornos. However, the German duo experimented with spinnakers and proved extremely fast. “We were really pushing hard,” admits Oehme, “but I was still surprised at the speeds we produced.”

The victorious Germans led the double-handed fleet from Day 6 (30/04) of Leg 4, although the final few hours were tortuous with speeds dropping to below two knots just 50 miles from the Charleston finish line. “We had to head across the Gulf Stream,” explains Oehme. “It has its own microclimate and we had periods of no wind, thunderstorms and torrential rain for five hours before a final three-hour cruise to the line.” For the young German yachtsman the Leg 4 victory and the overall victory if they complete the final leg is a milestone. “It’s a dream come true,” says Oehme and celebrations onshore are likely to be high-spirited. “I don’t feel tired at all,” he comments. “Usually I take the nightshift watch, so I’ve just got up and all I need is some food and I’m ready to party!”

In the 0320 GMT position poll on Sunday morning (17/05), Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz holding second place on Desafio Cabo de Hornos have 138 miles to the finish line and third place Team Mowgli with the British duo of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson have 403 miles of Leg 4 remaining. Meanwhile, solo sailor Michel Kleinjans is making good progress despite his collision with a container ship early on Saturday morning and his Open 40 Roaring Forty is making 8.4 knots with just under 300 miles of racing to complete.

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