Pipped at the post

Chileans overtake German duo to claim leg three of the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Thursday April 2nd 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
In a final sprint for the Portimão Global Ocean Race Leg 3 finish line in Ilhabela, Brazil, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos took the lead from Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer at 1020 GMT this morning with just 37 miles of the 7,500 mile course from Wellington, New Zealand, remaining. Having held the lead for nine days, the German duo - victors of Leg 1 and Leg 2 - were unable to regain the lost ground and the Chilean team stormed across the line off the south of the tropical island just 52 minutes ahead of Herrmann and Oehme after 40 days at sea.

Cubillos and Muñoz crossed the line at 13:02:54 GMT in a 15-20 knot south-easterly, driving Desafio Cabo de Hornos hard until passing the lighthouse on Ilhabela’s southern cape and hearing the horn from the Race Committee Boat. After 40 days 11 hrs 47 mins and 54 secs at sea, the Chilean duo were exhausted by having to handsteer without enough diesel left to charge the batteries and run the autopilot. “It was fantastic,” said a clearly tired and very slim Felipe Cubillos minutes after crossing the line. “Every position poll that came in we were a knot faster than the Germans; we were ten miles behind, then seven and then we came across a big black cloud and we overtook them. I really didn’t believe it… I really couldn’t have dreamt it!” he continued, still stunned by events. “But I think we really deserved it. We were ahead for most of the race and we made it to Cape Horn first which was historic for Chile and to be the first Class 40 ever to round the cape is also a record.”

Despite the intense rivalry between the two teams, the Chilean and German boats were in contact shortly before the finish. “The Beluga guys are excellent sailors and they called us an hour before the finish line and it is a great honour to race against them.” Shrugging off the fatigue, Cubillos was doubly pleased to take the Leg 3 finish: “It is very special as last year racing at Ilhabela Sailing Week, we lost the whole championship by just 15 seconds…so this is really special!” Having produced consistently high speeds in the closing stages is still partly a mystery to the Chilean team: “I’ve thought about it a lot and it is really because the boat is very, very light,” explains Cubillos. “We have no diesel left, no water and no food, so that was an advantage.”

Less than an hour later, Beluga Racer appeared through a rain squall to the south of the finish line as Cubillos and Muñoz circled, waiting for their German rivals. Crossing the line at 13:54:54 GMT after 40 days 12 hrs 39 mins and 54 secs of racing, both Herrmann and Oehme looked as though they were returning from a vigorous regatta race around the bay. “It’s great for the Chileans,” said a very upbeat Boris Herrmann. “Many congratulations to them.” In the final hours of racing, both the Germans knew of the threat presented by Desafio Cabo de Hornos to windward. “When we saw the breeze coming, we knew there could be a danger,” admits Herrmann. “But we just couldn’t get into the wind. We tried to tack across, but it was no good…the sails just flapped and were slack. We just couldn’t make it across to the breeze.” After crossing 5,000 miles of Southern Ocean in the Pacific and climbing 2,500 miles north in the South Atlantic, the final 20 miles were decided by a single band of south-westerly breeze and some high endurance sailing by the Chilean team.

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