Closing to four miles

Chileans becalmed out to the east in the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Tuesday March 24th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
As the South Atlantic weather systems ripple in a wave across the fleet from west to east, the effect is compressing the four Portimão Global Ocean Race boats as a barrier of light wind now grips the two race leaders, Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Beluga Racer. To the southwest, and further towards the coast of South America, Team Mowgli and Roaring Forty have stayed with stronger breeze, but the high pressure system blocking the route will halt their progress later today.

For Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz, the five days of sailing northeast towards Africa came to an end at midday yesterday (23/03) as the wind finally rolled southwest and the Chilean duo were able to point Desafio Cabo de Hornos towards Brazil. At the time of the manoeuvre, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme, 300 miles west of Desafio Cabo de Hornos, had closed the gap on the leaders to just four miles, but immediately slammed into light winds and speeds dropped instantaneously on Beluga Racer to sub-four knots. While Cubillos and Muñoz regained ground yesterday as the German team stalled, the high pressure has now bitten into Desafio Cabo de Hornos and in the 0620 GMT position poll this morning (24/03), the Chileans hold a lead of 33 miles over Beluga Racer but are creeping northwards at just under two knots. As the light airs continue to suffocate the Chilean team, Herrmann and Oehme to the west will get a slightly fresher breeze later today and Beluga Racer should close the deficit down once more.

Holding third place in the double-handed fleet and furthest west in the fleet, 450 miles off the coast of Patagonia, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are currently showing the best speed in the fleet at 8.8 knots and the stronger breeze for Team Mowgli has been a major bonus for the British team. “Our westerly position has paid off well for us over the last 24 hours,” reported Salvesen early this morning. “We’ve made gains of 40 miles over those Red Hot Chilli Peppers and 73 miles over Beluga Racer.” In the latest position poll, Team Mowgli trails the race leader by 153 miles and is 120 miles off the German team’s port quarter. “As forecast, the high pressure system we had a couple of days ago has hung over them for longer than it did over us and it looks as if being to the west - and we are still over 400 miles west of Desafio Cabo de Hornos - is going to carry on paying dividends for us.”

However, the high pressure system is democratic and the breeze is likely to drop at around midday today as Salvesen and Thomson continue to close down on the race leaders. “We will all run into lighter weather over the course of the next few days,” predicts Salvesen. “Then it will become harder to make significant gains on each other, so we need to get as many miles under our belts now,” he continues. “In the meantime, single-hander Michel on board Roaring Forty is keeping the pace with us, having similar weather to our south-east.” Currently 150 miles off the British Class 40’s starboard beam, Michel Kleinjans has taken just over 30 miles from the lead held by Desafio Cabo de Hornos in the past 24 hours and is now 224 miles behind the bright red, Chilean Class 40.

With the fleet spread over such a small distance after a month at sea and three weeks in the Southern Ocean, the Leg 3 finish line in Ilhabela, Brazil, is going to be very crowded in the middle of next week. “Whatever happens from now, this is still likely to be one of the tightest Cape Horn legs of any ocean race ever and it is incredible for us to be part of that,” says Salvesen. “Gripping stuff indeed!”

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