Half way stage

Portimao Global Ocean Race competitors approaching ice territory

Thursday January 1st 2009, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
While the world celebrates a new year with fireworks and good intentions, the leading boats in the Portimão Global Ocean Race celebrate a milestone of a different sort.

Earlier today both Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos passed the halfway mark for leg 2 and in doing so set their sights firmly on the second half of the leg; a long passage under Australia, across the Tasman Sea and into the Cook Strait. There is a lot of water stretched out ahead of them, but taken in bite sized chunks they will quickly eat up the miles to Wellington.At the front of the pack Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer continue to set a brisk pace. Their average speed for most of the last 24 hours, in fact for all of 2009 so far, has been over 11 knots, a full knot faster than the Chileans on board Desafio Cabo de Hornos. The extra pace has opened up a comfortable lead for them of almost 80 miles as both boats set up for passing north of the Ice Gate.

The gate, which stretches from 100 to 110°E, has been added to the course to keep the boats north of an area where numerous icebergs have been reported. It’s imperative that the boats remain to the north of the Ice Gate for the entire length of the gate; failure to do so will incur a stiff time and points penalty. Unlike the Kerguelen Gate, this gate is not a scoring gate.

As a bonus the weather is unseasonably mild for this New Year’s day and the German team of Boris and Felix were taking advantage of the good weather to have some fun.

“The Southern Ocean welcomed us with brilliant sunshine and perfect sailing conditions as we greet the new year,” Boris wrote. “We are sailing with a small spinnaker and a reef in the mainsail. We are now halfway through Leg 2 and as a special treat we got to open a gift from Meike (Boris’s girlfriend). It was some nice German chocolate.” As if to prove that it’s not all business on board Beluga Racer the two sailors spent some time hamming it up for the camera.

400 miles behind Beluga Racer, life on board Team Mowgli is also good. As the most northern boat in the fleet they too are enjoying mild conditions, a stark contrast from the bitter cold and brutal weather of a few days ago when they were the most southern boat in the fleet. Skipper Jeremy Salvesen checked in with his daily blog.

“We have had the most beautiful day down here in the Southern Ocean,” Salverson wrote. “Temperatures up around 25 degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky. It has been lovely to be able to take your boots and socks off, your foul weather clothing and even our mid layers off - and let everything BREATHE!!! It was all capped by the most stunning sunset we have seen all trip. Wind has been a steady 15-20 knots meaning we have finally been able to get full main up and with some decent headsails and we have been making reasonable speed over the ground.”

While the fleet is enjoying some nice sailing there is another intense low pressure sneaking up from behind. They are also in an area where some of the competitors racing the Vendée Globe, solo, nonstop around-the-world race sighted ice so all the sailors are on a constant vigil. To add to their woes the abandoned Open 60 Generali, which was left to it’s own devices when the skipper Yann Eliès was taken off with a broken femur, is reportedly still afloat but half submerged presenting yet another obstacle to the sailors.

Still it’s New Year’s day and the Portimão Global Ocean Race skippers are trying to remain in a festive mood for as long as possible. Salvesen’s blog continues. “We very much enjoyed our festive meal of duck once again and the little bottle of champagne went down a real treat - as did the Irish coffees afterwards. So, apart from the GPS going on the blink again, everything is well on the good ship Mowgli.”

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