Chileans into the lead

Portimão Global Ocean Race head for Pacific ice gate

Sunday March 1st 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
The Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet are continuing to keep the racing tight as the four boats stream east 50 miles above the mandatory, Pacific Ocean ice gate at 45°S with an unavoidable area of light wind blocking their route. In the latest position poll at 0920 GMT (01/03), Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos hold the lead with Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli in second with the British boat manoeuvring to take over the fleet’s southern position on Saturday afternoon from Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme who trail the double-handed leader by 29 on Beluga Racer. The fleet’s only solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans, has dropped in speed slightly having suffered minor gear damage on Open 40, Roaring Forty, but the Belgian single-hander is still keeping pace with the Class 40s and is now 27 miles behind Herrmann and Oehme.

The leading pair of Class 40s, Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Team Mowgli have been in close contact throughout the weekend trading the lead consistently. “Those Chileans are hot on our heels and were visible right behind us for most of Saturday,” reports the British skipper. “So much so that we had to speak to Felipe on the phone and ask him to stop following us!” However, Herrmann and Oehme are also becoming a threat: “Those Germans on Beluga Racer have steadily made their way northwards to join with us,” confirms Salvesen. “This is now going to be a drag race to the scoring gate some 1,100 miles to our east and then for a further 1,200 miles to the eastern end of the ice gate before tactics will once again come into play before Cape Horn.”

Long before the scoring gate at 130°W, south of French Polynesia, the fleet will encounter a meteorological barrier that may overturn the current leaderboard data. “We are all going to be squeezed into a narrow corridor not more than 60 miles wide between the ice gate at 45°S and the light wind zones in the high pressure systems passing to our north,” Salvesen explains. Late on Sunday GMT, the fleet will attempt to slip south of the system’s windless centre, but will be unable to hook into the more stable, easterly breeze spinning from the lower section of the high pressure, tantalisingly out of reach below the ice gate. “There will be little room for tactical manoeuvring and it will all come down to constant attention to boat speed and making sure we don't make any mistakes,” he predicts.

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