Beluga extends

Portimão Global Ocean Race due into port early next week

Thursday March 26th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
With 1,000 miles remaining to the Leg 3 finish in the tropical, Brazilian island of Ilhabela, the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet are set for a finish line scramble early next week. Over the past 24 hours, the German team of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer have made a break away, consistently averaging the highest speeds in the double-handed fleet yesterday afternoon as the boats beat north-east on port tack. This morning at 0620 GMT, Herrmann and Oehme have extended their lead over Desafio Cabo de Hornos by 27 miles since dawn on Wednesday and now lead the fleet by 71 miles, averaging eight knots.

Holding third place in the double-handed fleet, furthest west and 300 miles off the coast of Argentina, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli were the first to feel the breeze turn northerly, but have kept hard on the wind, averaging one knot slower than Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos sailing in slightly freer and stronger breeze further east. The net result for the British team is a loss of 16 miles to the Chileans and the British team now trail Desafio Cabo de Hornos by just 59 miles.

Meanwhile, solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty is pacing the double-handed fleet, matching speeds with Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos and is currently 200 miles astern of the race leader and 77 miles behind Team Mowgli.

After 6,500 miles and 33 days of racing, the closing stages of Leg 3 are going to be a tactical minefield for the four boats and the slightest lapse of strategic judgement or poor weather analysis could overturn the leaderboard. Felipe Cubillos, skipper of Desafio Cabo de Hornos explains: “We have 990 miles left to reach Ilhabela, but with the meteorology ahead, this is going to be a very complex six days.” As the area of high pressure east of the fleet expands across the South Atlantic, dragging the breeze further round to the east, the chances of the fleet having to tack back towards the coast of Uruguay and Southern Brazil increases.

If the wind stays more northerly, or moves to the west, sailing hard on the wind on port towards Ilhabela can be achieved. “The approach to the Brazilian coast is going to be winding,” predicts Cubillos. “We know that the final attack closing in on Ilhabela is going to be very, very complicated and pretty much anything can happen.” For Cubillos and his co-skipper, José Muñoz, there is only one clear plan: “Now, we have to work hard on recovering our lead,” he explains. “And never, never surrender!”

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