Snail's pace Tuesday ahead
The crew of Estrella Damm may be counting down the DTF of the New York Barcelona Transoceanic Sailing Record challenge, gently sliding under the 200 miles to go barrier this morning, but both teams know that there may be a long, slow Tuesday ahead of them before they reach Barcelona.
Both the IMOCA Open 60 crews this afternoon agreed with forecasts suggesting light winds on Tuesday, making the last miles extremely slow going. Periods of near stationary sailing could be on the cards. Estrella Damm’s Pepe Ribes, was enjoying the irony of passing very close to his home town of Calpe,
“We have 12 knots of wind,” Ribes reported. “During the night there was very light southeastly winds. At daylight we tried to get closer to the shore and we actually gybed and with that gybe we are right in front of Calpe, so maybe we should stop and see the family and have a paella. With the most recent gybe we are heading straight for Barcelona. Tomorrow’s forecast is to be very, very calm with very light winds and we have to be ready not to move at all through the day. But still you have to remember that the last few days none of the weather forecasts have added up, matching one another - so who knows? We just have to do what we have to do when you sail in the Med at this time of year, sail as you go, sail with what you get. We are sailing under spinnaker on the direct route to Barcelona.
“To be honest we feel it would be trickier to try and do anything other than sail the most direct route and we are on it. That seems the right thing to do. We are sailing at 10 knots and we have had some breeze off the shore. But really we can’t do much else, going only where we can see there is wind. There is no point in trying to do anything clever or different because there is not enough wind to get there, one side or another.
“With the wind we have, from here to Barcelona, they don’t have many different tactical options and even if they speed up and get close to us, then they still have to come the same way, and we still would have options to cover them.
“At the moment the routing says we have 41 hours to Barcelona, to the finish, but that does not mean very much when you see what we might get tomorrow. Even if we are doing 10 knots now we think tomorrow will be very calm and so we do expect to park up at some point.”
W Hotels had stayed more offshore, to play out a strategy which they felt they had identified yesterday, but unfortunately for Peter Becker, Toño Piris and Pachi Rivero the door closed on them when their breeze faltered, but today they were making decent speeds in around 6-10 knots of breeze under A3 gennaker and their resolve to catch up with the Estrella Damm crew of Alex Pella, Pepe Ribes and Stan Schreyer was undimmed. “We are just going to keep pushing”, was American Becker’s consistent refrain, sounding a little more tired than he has been. But, for all that, he again highlighted the simple pleasure of sunshine and light winds racing on the Mediterranean and the company of the two vastly experienced Spanish sailors. Clearly this is a passage which he has enjoyed through the good times and the less good times.
“It is a beautiful sunny day in the Mediterranean,” said Becker. “The weather changed a little bit and some of the options we thought yesterday are now closed, but here we are. We are pushing all the time to try and close the gap. It looks like there are going to be lighter winds between here and the finish. Wind direction is from 225 degrees and 6 knots or so. We are sailing with the A3 at the moment just trying to get down to them as best as we can. We are expecting to get 8-10 knots through today. We have just been looking again at the weather maps to try and see if there are any options, but it seems as if Estrella Damm has more wind still and that’s the way it is.
"But we still feel good, it is such a lovely day and there is really not much more that we can do. To some sailors the distance left to the finish may not seem like much, but to others that is a lot, but in terms of time there is still a lot left. There is still plenty of time to catch up.
"I have enjoyed every minute. Obviously when we had the moments with the rudder and that happened then we needed to take some energy to get over that hump, but Pachi and Talpi are always smiling and they are such an absolute pleasure to sail with, it would be hard not to enjoy it.”
From W-Hotels Pachi Rivero added: “We are doing well so far. Last night we did a pretty long tack towards Morocco, and now we are about 30 miles off Cabo de Gata. Now we are in area with very low winds. Estrella Damm managed to get away again because they have had a little more wind than we have had, but the forecast from here on is just very light winds. Our boat speed is about 8.4 knots, windspeed of 8.6 knots, true wind is 223 degrees and our TWA is 133 degrees. We are still going to try and keep going as quickly as we can and try and avoid the calms. We might try to keep closer to the shore and see if we can get more breeze. Yesterday we went more to the East than Estrella Damm where the routing was telling us to go and it did not really help much. But when there is so little wind, even if you try to do something different or radical then there you just can’t do it because it develops slowly.
“We reckon on an ETA 21st April 0850hrs GMT but that’s what it says now.”
ETA Barcelona for the first boat still remains unclear, but perhaps anything between late Tuesday and afternoon Wednesday. Only the wind, or lack of it, will decide.
Standings at 1300hrs GMT Monday
1. Estrella Damm (ESP), Ribes, Pella, Schreyer: 183.9 miles to finish
2. W Hotels (ESP), Rivero, Piris, Becker: 278.4 miles to finish (+ 94.5 miles to leader)