Across the Equator

Beluga Race continues to lead Portimão Global Ocean Race

Tuesday October 28th 2008, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
All the yachts participating in the Portimão Global Ocean Race are clear of the Doldrums and in a free fall to get south as fast as possible. Their next target, a waypoint off the coast of Brazil, a mandatory gate that has to be honored, is coming up quick. The gate, originally the island of Fernando de Noronha, was changed to a waypoint at 08 20S and 033 10W to make it easier for the sailors. The waypoint is due west of the Brazilian city of Recife and is essentially ‘on their way south’.

At the most recent poll (18:20 UTC) the leading yacht, Beluga Racer was just 280 miles from the gate and poised to grab the first points on offer for the race. As is the case with the Volvo Ocean Race up ahead of them, the gate, in addition to being a scoring gate, is there to keep the boats sailing close together and to ensure that none of the competitors choose the more direct but potentially more boat breaking route sailing upwind east of the south Atlantic high. While sailing upwind to South Africa might look like a reasonable option, history has shown that the longer route down the western side and under the bottom of the high pressure is the better way to go.

Three yachts have now crossed the equator. Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer were the first into the southern hemisphere followed less than a day later by the leading solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty. The third boat to cross that imaginary line was Team Mowgli. Co-skippers David Thomson and Jeremy Salvesen have sailed a terrific second half of stage one and romped past the Chileans aboard Desafio Cabo de Hornos. Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz are expected to cross the equator into their home hemisphere later this evening.

Perhaps the most remarkable performance of the race to date has been turned in by the quiet Belgium, Michel Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty. Although his boat has recently undergone a major refit, it’s an old build and an old design that was originally launched in 1997. Kleinjans knows his boat like an old friend and knows how to get the best out of it in all conditions. Shortly after crossing the equator Michel sent an email to race HQ.

“At 03:11:34 UTC we crossed the equator,” he wrote. “I smoked a bit of a good cigar and offered the rest of it to King Neptune. It took me 14 days, 14 hours to get here. It‘s still a long way to Tiperary as the song goes, but this part is done. The boat is still in good shape and we are working our way through the Southeast trades. It takes a bit more effort on the boat than the part in Northeast trades, but she copes well and we are doing not too bad compared to the competition where I expected them to be quicker as we have the sheets quite a bit cracked and power comes into play.”

Aboard Desafio Cado de Hornos Felipe Cubillos is philosophical about the distance lost to the leading three boats. “We are finally out of the Doldrums,” he wrote. “And the sailing is good even though we are still getting the occasional squall with 25-plus knots of wind in it. We are disappointed by our loss to our rivals and I emphasize that this is all my fault as the decisions were mine alone. It started when we chose to go to the west once free of the Cape Verde Islands. It looked like it was a good tactical move but we did not have an easy transit of the doldrums and consequently lost quite a few miles. Still, the race will start again at the Recife waypoint and José and I will show what this boat can do.”

At the back of the fleet Lenjohn and Peter Van Der Wel on Kazimir Partners are still in a tight race with Dutchman Nico Budel on Hayai. Budel is handicapped by the loss of his big spinnaker that was reduced to shreds by a violent doldrum squall. Fortunately he will not be needing the spinnaker for the next few weeks as he, along with the rest of the fleet, sail close hauled to the Recife waypoint. Once the canting keel on Hayai is cranked all the way to windward and the boat is fully powered up he is expected to once again close the gap on Kazimir Partners.

Aboard Kazimir Partners brothers Lenjohn and Peter Van Der Wel have been getting soaked as Peter reported in his email to friends and family. "We are defiantly looking forward to leaving this area behind us," he wrote. "And picking up some clean wind so that we can continue on to Cape Town. Today has been an extremely slow, frustrating and difficult day. I think we have been hit by every single rain drop between 4 and 6 degrees. Needless to say Lenjohn and myself smell very nice (Pantene Pro V) shampoo and conditioner."

Leaderboard at 00:20 UTC Monday, 26 October 2008

1) Beluga Racer - DTF 3415 nm
2) Roaring Forty - DTF 3518 nm
3) Team Mowgli - DTF 3684 nm
4) Desafio Cabo de Hornos - DTF 3716 nm
5) Hayai - DTF 4014 nm
6) Kazimir Partners - DTF 4022 nm

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