Germans edge ahead

Portimao Global Ocean Race boats continue their way towards Charleston, SC

Monday May 11th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Over the weekend, the German team of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer have continued to press the pedal hard to the floor producing high average speeds throughout Sunday. In the latest 0620 GMT position poll this morning, Herrmann and Oehme are under 60 miles due east of Antigua averaging 13.4 knots while Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz are making 12.5 knots on Desafio Cabo de Hornos trailing the German boat by 79 miles with a loss of ten miles in the past 24 hours.

Holding third place in the double-handed fleet, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson have found the Trade Wind breeze and Team Mowgli has been pacing the fleet leaders with the British duo now trailing the leading Class 40 by 562 miles. The straight line sailing, stable conditions and lack of tactical options has put solo sailor Michel Kleinjans at a disadvantage on Roaring Forty and the Belgian yachtsman has dropped behind the double-handed leaders, but Kleinjans still maintains a 210 mile advantage over Salvesen and Thomson.

For the Chilean duo on board Desafio Cabo de Hornos, catching the German race leaders has become an obsession and Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz have used every conceivable trick to maximise boat speed and narrow the gap. “We have tried all the available sail combinations,” explained Cubillos on Sunday. “When the wind is around 18 knots at the current True Wind Angle of between 110° - 115°, both our boats are evenly matched making around 12 knots of speed,” he continues. “When the wind drops below 18 knots, our speed falls as we are forced to use our heavy-wind spinnaker which is very small compared to the medium one which the Germans must be using.”

The loss of the Chilean’s medium spinnaker reported one week ago is a major performance setback for Desafio Cabo de Hornos. “This is pure guesswork as we do not know their sail inventory, but I tend to think that this is the case,” says Cubillos. “Thus, with the aid of our software, we know exactly the differential of speed for both boats,” continues the Chilean skipper. “If this is the reason, it is correct to say that we have done all that is possible to overtake them, but it hasn’t worked and it is going to take more time.”

Current weather models suggest that Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos are in around 16 knots of breeze - slightly north of east - and Cubillos had foreseen this prospect yesterday. “The forecast predicts that the wind will roll towards the east and blow around 18 knots: a very bad scene for us,” he commented on Sunday. However, the eternally optimistic Chilean prefers to look at the upside of the meteorology. “And when will this scenario change?” he asks. “We think that in about three to four days - around 800 miles from our present position – up near the Bahamas.”

What have the Chilean team spotted to the north? “There is going to be a front of high pressures and the wind is going to switch to blowing from astern,” explains the Chilean skipper. “For us, this would start the race again and we will be able to compete on even terms.” There is, however, a need to stop Herrmann and Oehme from increasing their lead: “The important thing is that they do not arrive with too much advantage in that zone,” warns Cubillos. “From that point, there will still be 800 miles until the finish line in Charleston to overtake them,” he adds. With just over 1,600 miles to Charleston for the fleet leaders, the Leg 4 finish is shaping up to be another gripping sprint.

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