Germans extend

Beluga Racer now almost 200 miles ahead of their Chilean rivals as Charleston finish line approaches

Friday May 15th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Over the past 24 hours, the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet have been sailing parallel to the Bahamas with race leaders Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer extending their lead over their Chilean rivals, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on damaged Class 40 Desafio Cabo de Hornos. The latest 0620 GMT position poll this morning (15/05), reveals that the German team have added 24 miles to their lead since dawn yesterday, averaging speeds of around 11 knots – often three to four knots faster than Cubillos and Muñoz – and the Chilean team now trail the leaders by 192 miles.

Currently 839 miles south of the leading double-handed boat, due east of the southern end of the Bahamas, the British duo of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson holding third place have continued to punch out the highest average speeds in the fleet for the third day running on Team Mowgli. Salvesen and Thomson have been averaging over 13 knots and have taken approximately 70 miles from second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos in the past 24 hours and now trail the Chilean team by 323 miles.

For solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty, the remaining 700 miles to the finish line is a matter of making good speed and limiting further damage to his sail wardrobe. “The last four days passed by without much change,” reported the Belgian single-hander late yesterday. “Kite up in the day, Code 0 in the night. Pilot on most of the time, unless a squall was passing by, when the wind sometimes mounted to 30 knots.” This well-planned routine has failed to prevent the loss of one key sail: “In one of these I tore the big kite,” he explains “The tack blew out, since then it is the medium spinnaker which until now is just as fine, if not better, but I just have to hope it doesn't get too light at the end close to Charleston.”

For Kleinjans, racing against the double-handed teams is a challenge, although he is realistic about his boat’s capabilities and Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos are uncatchable: “There is not much to fight for me at this point,” he admits. “The two in front are pretty much out of reach. I just have to see that Mowgli does not overtake me, as they are clearly quicker in these circumstances whatever I try and have tried over the last two weeks.” However, he is still pushing hard and occasionally breaks his own rules.
“Last night I kept the kite up, which is of course a bit quicker, but as it is the last one I have, I didn't sleep too well. But the squalls have gone, so I thought I could risk it and it worked, so - without knowing by how much – it was a bit quicker in the direction of
Charleston.”

The Belgian sailor has also had a number of close encounters with unlit fishing boats off the coast of Brazil during Leg 4 and the ex-Merchant Marine was on high alert when sailing east of the busy channel between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico on Wednesday night. “Last night I crossed a banana boat, which came out of the Mona Passage, I guess.” Sailing single-handed requires constant watchfulness despite radar and Kleinjans spent most of the night on deck. “He passed like half a mile in front of me, which I found close after not having seen any ships for a while now,” he says. “It amazes me that I didn't see more ships as were I was straight on the shipping route from Europe-Panama.”

Meanwhile, 200 miles north of Kleinjans, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz continue to wait for the breeze to move south. “Last night we thought for a moment that the meteorological projections were being fulfilled,” reported Cubillos yesterday. “Our instruments began to register that the wind was settling in the direction of 100 degrees.” For the Chilean duo, this would mean offwind sailing and the lack of their port rudder would be less of a burden and handicap. “So, we began to prepare everything for a spinnaker hoist,” he continues. “Unfortunately, it was a squall: one of those clouds that causes damage and accelerates the wind in impressive style. This one brought rain and breeze of 30 knots so we just concentrated on controlling the boat and not overloading the remaining rudder.” In the past 24 hours the German team have made inevitable gains and watching the distance grow is unpleasant for Cubillos and Muñoz. “It is not easy to accept that the Germans are moving away from us,” admits the Chilean skipper. “But it is very difficult to control the boat with a single rudder when the wind increases.” However, any thoughts of backing-off or simply cruising to the finish line are not an option. “When a problem like this happens in the Vendée Globe, they are forced to retire from racing,” he explains. “But our boat is too proud and brave to accept this option and she has only requested that we look after her and get to Charleston.”

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