Chileans take the lead

As Portimao Global Ocean Race boats move up the Brazilian coast

Monday April 27th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
The Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet passed south of Rio de Janeiro shortly before midnight GMT on Sunday night with the double-handed boats separated by just 15 miles and solo sailor Michel Kleinjans mixing in with the fleet, ten miles behind the leading Class 40. As the fleet left Rio to port, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson were making the best speeds in the fleet on Team Mowgli. “The light winds of Sunday morning soon gave way to steady 15 knots, rising through the night to a steady 22 with gusts up to 28 knots,” explained Salvesen at dawn on Monday. “Full main and masthead spinnaker saw boat speeds in excess of 15 knots in a flat sea as we sailed, in the middle of the night, past Rio de Janeiro - just managing to make out the landmarks of Copacobana Beach!”

However, this sightseeing came with a price and the British duo were forced to gybe onto starboard. “We did, however, lose some miles against the rest of the fleet as we gybed southwards away from Rio to give us room to get round Cape Frio as the wind shifted against us.” In the 1220 GMT position poll on Monday, Team Mowgli are lying in third place, 35 miles behind Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on race leader, Desafio Cabo de Hornos with solo sailor Michel Kleinjans trailing the double-handed fleet leader by 25 miles on Roaring Forty. Chilean skipper, Cubillos, describes the scene: “We have south-westerly wind of 20 knots and we are sailing fast with the spinnaker,” he reported earlier. “We are still feeling fresh from the stopover and are grabbing short bursts of sleep and if we keep hand steering and ignore the autopilot, we will go faster and keep up the pace,” he continues.

At 0620 GMT this morning, Cubillos and Muñoz rounded Cape Frio and are holding a lead of just five miles ahead of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer with the German duo averaging 12.7 knots - two knots faster than the Chilean team. “To have passed Cape Frio north-east of Rio is a major landmark of this leg,” confirms Cubillos. “In theory, the conditions should now stabilise and will be perfect for our design of boat,” he says. “Our strategy has worked so far. During the day we head in towards the coast; in the evening we move offshore, always looking to cover the boats behind us.”

With Herrmann and Oehme halving the Chilean’s lead in the past three hours, the game is on. “You might think that it’s exhausting to have the Germans right on our scent, chasing us like a hunting dog, but I confess I love it,” says Cubillos. “For certain, it is far better to have them behind us than in front of us, but it is all part of the excitement of the race and Leg 4 is going to be just as tight as the previous three legs.” With 1,000 miles to sail before reaching the vital scoring gate, the competition will be intense. “In reality, we are only about one hour in front of them,” admits the Chilean skipper. “This is a minute margin if we want to take first place at the scoring gate at Recife.”

Although weather models are conflicting close to the Brazilian coast, the fleet should carry the breeze for 24-36 hours as the wind shifts from south-west to south. “We have been helming all the way and pushing as hard as possible and are now heading northwards,” confirms Salvesen on Team Mowgli. “The wind is due to shift towards the south over the course of the next 24 hours or so and this will mean gybing our way up the coast,” predicts the British skipper. “Having spent most of the last six months or so sailing well out of sight of land, this is all a bit of a new experience for us and something of a thrill! We anticipate being within sight of land for much of the next week, counting off the landmarks as they go.”

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