On board Desafio Cabo de Hornos

On board Desafio Cabo de Hornos


Chileans grinding down Beluga Racers lead in the Portmao Global Ocean Race

Tuesday January 6th 2009, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
In his spare time, when he is not pushing his red hot racing machine across Southern Ocean waters, Felipe Cubillos is at his navigation station, calculating. Every three hours he gets an updated poll showing the position of his yacht, Desafio Cabo de Hornos, and that of his closest rival, the German team on Beluga Racer. The poll shows the average speed of both boats for the last three hours as well as their relative distance-to-go number to the finish line in Wellington. The poll comes in the form of an email and it can bring good news or bad news, depending on your perspective.

For the last few days it has been bringing good news, to Felipe. Desafio Cabo de Hornos has been steadily closing the gap on Beluga Racer and at the most recent (12:20UTC) poll there was just 51 miles separating them. Close sailing after nearly 5,000 miles of hard racing.In his daily blog Felipe explained his latest calculations.

“This morning it was still blowing as usual at around 40 knots and we are 51 miles from the Germans,” he wrote. “We have closed the gap again since the last poll. We have approximately 10 days until we reach Wellington which means we need to deduct just six miles per day to win this race. It is difficult, but not impossible. These Germans sailors are very, very good and I have to say that it is an honour and a privilege to compete against them.”

Ever secretive about the sail combinations they have up at any given time in case Boris and Felix Google Translate their Spanish blogs into German, Felipe’s blog continued.

“In the penultimate report they were faster than us and we were forced to take urgent measures which fortunately has resulted in an increase of almost two knots of boat speed. I cannot say what we did in case Boris gets to read this, but if they want to come to Chile after the race I will tell them then. We have been sailing with a spinnaker up in a combination that is medium to high risk to our sails. We knew that we were pushing the limit and with just one accidental broach we would lose our spinnaker. The sailing was very hard and very stressful, but it worked and we not only regained the lost miles, but we took some additional miles out of them.”

To the south and slightly ahead things seem more relaxed on Beluga Racer. Co-skippers Boris and Felix know that they are being pushed but are taking it all in stride. In his daily blog Boris explained their tactics.

“We are sailing a Great Circle course to Wellington,” he wrote. Great Circle being the shortest distance between two points in a spherical surface. “Our course is actually more to the south than indicated on the Race Tracker. We are adjusting our course all the time to sail as close to the Great Circle as possible and this is paying off. Cabo de Hornos is sailing to the north of us and although they are actually sailing faster than us, they have to sail more distance and we are able to stay in the lead.”

In the grand scheme of things the gains and losses are minimal. Felipe and José are pushing hard from behind, a good place to be when you need to want to put some undue pressure on your competition.

At the front Boris and Felix are sailing their race like the dinghy sailors they are. As if to prove the point that they are sailing with as much precision as they can, Boris sent a short email to Race HQ when he passed the eastern end of the Ice Gate. “We passed the Gate 2 East today at 10:34:21 UTC with a distance of 1 mile to the north. We have 25 knots of wind and are going on starboard tack under Code 5 and mainsail.” German precision indeed.

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