The Falklands dilemma

Chileans opt for the long route in the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Saturday March 21st 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
With the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet entering the South Atlantic, a new dilemma has faced the four boats: leaving the Falkland Islands to port or starboard. The decision was made well in advance of approaching the group of islands and with the wind predominantly northerly after rounding Cape Horn early on Thursday morning, the Chilean team on Desafio Cabo de Hornos opted to head east, freeing off and passing east of Isla de Los Estados. Later the same day, as the wind turned a fraction westerly, Beluga Racer slipped through the Le Maire Strait between Isla de Los Estados and the coast of Tierra del Fuego, cutting the corner and taking the more direct route.

Having committed to this route, both boats have been gambling with a high-pressure system currently centred 600 north-east of the Falklands, delivering winds forward of the beam for the first time since the fleet encountered a rogue low pressure system in the Pacific Ocean a week ago. For Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos, the eastern option of leaving the islands to port has meant a faster wind angle in the north-westerly breeze and the Chilean Class 40 has been polling two to three knot higher speed averages than Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer over the past 24 hours. For the German duo, the sharper ascent and tighter wind angle has delivered slower speeds, but the more direct route towards the finish line 1,700 miles to the north has kept Herrmann and Oehme 60 miles behind the Chilean team - in terms of distance to finish - since Beluga Racer exited Le Maire Strait early on Friday morning.

In the 0620 GMT position poll today (21/03), Desafio Cabo de Hornos is 50 miles east of the Falklands, averaging the fleet’s fastest speed at just under 10 knots, three knots faster than Beluga Racer, with the German team currently 60 miles west of the main islands, but sailing very close to the uninhabited pinnacle of rock, Steeple Jason, and the outlaying Jason Island group. Felipe Cubillos explains the situation: “Over the next couple of days, we will know if our strategy was the best one,” he said last night. “This debate over leaving the Falklands to starboard or port happens in every round the world race,” he continued. “The majority of times, leaving the islands to port is favourable and I’m certain our decision is right. We will know for certain over the next couple of days.”
Following the Chilean fiesta at Cape Horn in the early hours of Thursday morning,

Cubillos admits that the past 48 hours have been slightly surreal. “For two days, José and I have been experiencing the most magical time that any human being can live and it is not easy to wake up and to return to the reality,” he confirms. “I know that I cried over the VHF speaking with my children and with my friends and that was absolutely expected.” With a Chilean Navy air escort and the Patrol Ship Sibbald for company, the cape was a frenzy of activity for six extraordinary hours. “To see all these people in the normally empty Drake Passage, cheering and waving the Chilean flag was out of this world,” recalls Cubillos. “It was more like a football match atmosphere.” However, all good parties end, eventually. “Whatever the case, we have both snapped out of our daydream and are back in the game.”

Currently a little under 60 miles southwest of the islands, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli turned hard left after passing Cape Horn on Friday morning and made a swift passage through the Le Maire Strait in the afternoon averaging nine knots in the 16 mile wide channel. The option to cut the corner has kept the lead of Desafio Cabo de Hornos to under 200 miles since Team Mowgli entered the South Atlantic.

Shortly after making his historic, single-handed rounding of the cape yesterday afternoon (20/03), Michel Kleinjans was considering tackling the Le Maire Strait on Roaring Forty, prompting congratulations and a Le Maire update from the German team on Beluga Racer. “Congratulations on your second rounding of the Horn,” wrote Boris Herrmann in a brief email to Kleinjans. “And to keep up so close to us double-handers! Incredible!” Herrmann and Oehme averaged six knots through the strait, taking around three hours yesterday to pass through the tricky channel of strong tides and complex currents. “We sailed through Le Maire Strait and it was great,” continued the German skipper. “It is wide and the water was calm. We had westerly winds. So, if you have westerlies, I would say go through and save some miles,” he advised Kleinjans. “I loved to see all the land after such a long ocean passage and we wish you a wonderful day of ‘inshore’ sailing as a great break to get re-inspired for the final approach to Ilhabela.”

However, a quick glance at the weather data and tide tables on Roaring Forty forced a new decision. “I’ve changed my mind,” reported Kleinjans late last night. “I’m going to go east of the Falklands and so I’ll head east of Isla de Los Estados as well as it will be tide against me in the strait and a lot of breeze on the nose coming out.” In the latest position poll, Roaring Forty is 18 miles north-east of Cape San Juan on the eastern tip of the island making just over nine knots. “So, I’ll try for a better wind angle first and when it turns on the nose, it will be lighter,” explains the Belgian solo sailor who remains determined to catch the double-handers. “I hope after the Falklands I’ll have better angles. Maybe it’s a gamble, but what have I to lose? I am certainly not going to catch Beluga and Mowgli by following them.”

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top