Final miles

German duo expected in tomorrow in Portimão Global Ocean Race

Tuesday March 31st 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Any available breeze for the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet off the coast of Brazil is proving entirely democratic, although immensely cruel, after 38 days at sea for the four teams. On Monday evening, race leader Beluga Racer and second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos were separated by 75 miles and both boats picked up pace from a virtual standstill to six and seven knots through the early evening, leaving third place Team Mowgli struggling in zero breeze 117 miles further south of the bright red Chilean Class 40. By midnight, the entire double-handed fleet were averaging a relatively supersonic seven knots while Michel Kleinjans languished in lighter breeze on Roaring Forty making just under six knots, 53 miles off the British Class 40’s starboard quarter.

Throughout Tuesday, as the entire fleet tacked away from the coast, the breeze failed for the leading boats with Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer dropping speed averages to two knots with Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz making double the speed 83 miles behind the German team. Meanwhile, averaging just under six knots, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli and Kleinjans on Roaring Forty held the breeze slightly longer before the wind finally died in the early evening.

“Don’t look at the GPS, don’t check the distance and don’t follow the miles counting backwards on the display,” warns Felix Oehme. “I’m certain it freezes the numbers and they won’t change anymore.” With the weather models suggesting the prospect of 5-10 knots of breeze for the next 24 hours, an effective displacement activity was required on board Beluga Racer. “It’s better reading old newspapers over and over again, or that book that I wouldn’t even bother reading if I was onshore,” continues Oehme. However, the race leaders are sailing in a stunning environment. “We do have fantastic sailing conditions,” he reported earlier today before the breeze evaporated at 1500 GMT. “Blue ocean, sea turtles, 25 degrees air temperature and 10-12 knots of breeze.”

With a new ETA of around midday GMT on Thursday, time is endless for the entire fleet although Herrmann and Oehme are in good spirits. “We are managing to control the race from the front, which is nice, and there are still some unwatched movies on the hard disk,” he reports. “Yesterday, we watched a movie about Che Guevara and his friend Alberto making a journey across South America. They were the same age as Boris and I and we discovered many similarities between them and us.” Fortunately, the connection to ‘El Che’ is limited to shared experience, not political ideology. “No worries, I’m not preparing any kind of revolution in Europe,” reassures Oehme. “Although I can’t speak for Boris!” So what does connect the motorcycling Argentines, Geuvara and Granado, with the double-handed German duo? “One aspect is that we are often asked why we are doing this. In the movie, the same question also arises and they don’t know what to answer. But you know that Che and Alberto feel that they are doing the right thing. That’s absolutely the same for us, no matter how fast the numbers change on the GPS…”

In the 1820 GMT position poll today, Herrmann and Oehme have slowed further to 1.7 knots while Cubillos and Muñoz are squeezing just under four knots on Desafio Cabo de Hornos remaining 76 miles behind the German leader - a net loss of just one mile over 24 hours as the elastic band connecting the doublehanded fleet vibrates and settles as the wind drops. Still suffering a loss of ground from the personal breeze vacuum encountered on Monday evening, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are pacing the Chilean duo 146 miles south of Desafio Cabo de Hornos and trailing the German leaders by 222 miles. Throughout the day, the fleet’s solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans has made the best speeds to the south of the double-handed Class 40s, slowing down in the last three hours to just under five knots as the light breeze travels through the fleet trailing Team Mowgli by 31 miles.

With 230 miles to go for the race leader, forecasts suggest that the breeze will turn northerly for the German team and drop from six knots early on Wednesday morning while Team Mowgli and Roaring Forty to the south will be first to feel the 11-15 knot southerly breeze at around 0430 GMT on Wednesday morning: breeze that will – it is hoped – be the final boost for the fleet after 7,500 miles of Southern Ocean and South Atlantic sailing.

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