600 to go

Portimão Global Ocean Race leaders a couple of days away from Charleston

Thursday May 14th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
In the 0320 GMT position poll this morning, the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet are devouring the miles to the finish line in Charleston, South Carolina. Race leaders Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer are currently just under 600 miles from the finish line averaging 11.5 knots – three knots faster than their rivals Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos. Further south 120 miles north-east of Puerto Rico, the British double-handed crew of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on board third place Team Mowgli remain the fastest boat in the fleet and have reduced their deficit to Beluga Racer by approximately 50 miles during the past 24 hours and currently trail the race leaders by 559 miles. Meanwhile, the fleet’s solo sailor Michel Kleinjans continues to deliver impressive pace and his Open 40, Roaring Forty is 240 mile behind the Chilean double-handed team on Desafio Cabo de Hornos as the Belgian solo sailor passes below the 1,000 mile Distance To Finish barrier.

Over the past 48 hours there has been an unusual lack of communication from Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli although the reason becomes clear when the British duo’s speed averages have been the highest in the fleet since early on Wednesday morning with 12 and 13 knots becoming standard as their Class 40 tore passed the Leeward Islands. “You could tell by the smiles on our faces that we have had a good night!” reported Salvesen late yesterday. “We have finally hit the Trade Winds proper and are enjoying the sort of sailing conditions that Beluga and Cabo de Hornos have been experiencing for the last week or so with 20 to 30 knots of wind with the small spinnaker up and flying along at up to 18.5 knots all night long.”

Tuesday, however, was a slow build up to the recent fast sailing. “Yesterday was however another day of intense frustration with more light and very variable winds trying to push us far too far east,” confirms Salvesen. “So we were sailing as deep as we dared to try and maintain course - but as we all know this ain't no way to go fast! At least it wasn't all conducted in baking hot sunshine!” With 1,160 miles to the Charleston finish line, Team Mowgli are keen to make haste northwards and avoid any light winds ahead. “The forecast - for what they appear to be worth in this part of the world - gives us another couple of days of this wind,” predicts the British skipper. “So the miles will fairly disappear underneath us, although there is some interesting looking weather ahead if we don't get our skates on, so watch this space.”

For Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on stricken Desafio Cabo de Hornos, the wait for following breeze continues as the Chilean duo head north with one rudder and the German fleet leaders stretch ahead, although Cubillos is content that the gains by Beluga Racer are still under control as Herrmann and Oehme add just over ten miles to their lead over the Chilean boat in the past 24 hours. “Our projection that the Germans were going to be 260 miles ahead of us by this stage has not happened, which is very good,” he says confidently as the deficit reaches 159 miles. “But what it is not very good is that the wind is not turning southerly as the meteorologists predicted. Therefore, the option to flatten the boat and use a spinnaker is delayed.” Currently, the Chileans are forced to race with reduced sail in breeze slightly forward of the beam as any overpowering will heel the boat and lift the single remaining windward rudder clear of the water causing Desafio Cabo de Hornos to round up and broach.

However, Cubillos and Muñoz are still optimistic that their favoured wind angle will arrive. “Around Bermuda the breeze might drop and finally change to following wind,” explains the Chilean skipper. “But I am a little sceptical with the meteorological information and we can’t be certain this will happen.” Until the breeze shifts, options are limited on Desafio Cabo de Hornos. “There is not much we can really do other than make the best speed possible,” admits Cubillos. “The fact that we need a rudder is already anecdotal, but we have learnt to sail with one and we’re doing pretty well.” Although the present circumstances are far from perfect, the future looks bright for the Chilean team. “A replacement rudder is going to be sent from France to Charleston and also a new spinnaker has been donated by an enthusiastic supporter who has asked specifically to remain anonymous,” Cubillos reveals. “Thus, it is right that we should publicly thank this generous, enthusiastic and anonymous donor.”

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