400 to go

Portimão Global Ocean Race boats reduced to crawling speeds

Tuesday March 31st 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Over the weekend, the average speeds plummeted for the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet as the four boats crept northwards in light and extremely variable breeze. With the Distance To Finish data scrolling slowly below 400 miles for the race leaders, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer, the progress north at below five knots was a tortuous end to the 7,500 mile Leg 3. Throughout Sunday afternoon and evening, the fleet’s solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Open 40 Roaring Forty made the best speeds south-east of the double-handed Class 40s, but early on Monday morning, the German team found marginally fresher breeze and picked up the pace to the north while Kleinjans stalled dramatically to just one knot.

“I’ve got my share of frustration,” admitted Kleinjans. “Since 2000 GMT on Sunday I’ve had one or two knots of current against me and hardly any wind,” the Belgian solo sailor reports. With no way of making the boat move, Kleinjans resigned himself to sitting in the cockpit. “I had a long look at the stars, but decided that my bunk was a better option.” Leaving the autopilot to struggle with the lack of motion, Kleinjans had a restless few hours. “I had a nightmare that I was taken hostage by terrorists,” he explains. “Luckily, I woke up in a sweat before they got round to executing me! It really is time to arrive, I think.”

While Roaring Forty gained miles on the British team yesterday, the past 24 hours have seen Kleinjans slip back behind the Class 40 boats by 30 miles and the Belgian yachtsman now trails Salvesen and Thomson by 58 miles. “ Mowgli doesn’t have to feel my breath on their necks anymore for a while,” says Kleinjans.

In the 1820 GMT position poll today, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme are 250 miles north of Kleinjans, approximately 180 miles off the Brazilian coast and 346 miles from the finish line in Ilhabela. “All bets are now off for the ETA and any guesses are useless,” wrote Herrmann in a brief email to the Race Organisation. “Is this a bungee finish or what?” Since sending the message, Beluga Racer have extended their lead averaging seven knots on Monday afternoon - two knots faster than Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos and five knots faster than the third place British duo of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli. The superior speeds by the German Class 40 puts Beluga Racer 75 miles ahead of the Chilean team and 192 miles ahead of the British boat, with 24 hours gains of 16 miles over Cubillos and Muñoz and 36 miles over Salvesen and Thomson. With a further 36 hours of light winds ahead, the closing stages of the Portimão Global Ocean Race Leg 3 are stretching out exhaustingly.

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