Gibraltar parking lot continues

Between a rock and a hard place still in the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday January 4th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

When they won the first of the six stage trophies, the North-South Mediterranean Trophy, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron collected the first trophy of this Barcelona World Race when they brought Virbac-Paprec 3 into the Atlantic, passing Gibraltar at 1955 UTC last night.

Peyron reported: “It was a battle for everyone really. And we had to really draw on our reserves, many operations and a lots of stacking. Always stacking and restacking cases and bags, it’s like working in removals. Fortunately now the strategy we made is right. It is good to be back in the Atlantic. There is water passing under the keel and passing your eyes. And the weather is easier to follow and predict. In the Mediterranean it seems like the reverse of what you expect to happen happens. The future is a little complicated, but relatively straightforward with some difficult points but we will see what happens. We are already en route at the moment. We need to get west a little at the moment, controlled a little by the passage of this depression. For those chasing us it shows them down the Moroccan coast. I don’t believe in the routing too much. I am tired. We are not in the oceanic pace. We have eaten into our reserves and now it is time to get rest. That was the strategy before the start. We will recharge now. All is well. I go to stack again. Already I’m sick of stacking.”

The Virbac-Paprec duo, second placed Foncia and third placed Mirabaud will all have looked back today at the frustration and disappointment in their wake as their rivals spent hours trapped in the Straits of Gibraltar and given thanks that, by comparison, their escapes were relatively simple.

“We have 25 miles to go to the exit. But we have three knots of wind and don’t progress. The current has been up to five knots. Like this it could be hours before we get there. Or days,” said Anna Corbella this afternoon from GAES Centros Auditivos.

“It’s been the worst of our lives,” Boris Herrmann reported from Neutrogena this morning. “If no wind comes we could be here forever. And that’s frightening.”

Virbac Paprec 3 have profited from their quick exit, heading south west with twice the speed of second placed Foncia to extend their margin to 56 miles this afternoon.

Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart on Foncia appear to be sticking with a more westerly track and have 20.5 miles in hand over third placed Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret on Mirabaud who have put their incident with Moroccan officials yesterday afternoon behind them and gained nicely in third. Wavre put some of their recent success down to good fortune, making the right sail selection at the right time to drive themselves free of the Straits’ grasping tentacles.

And while the leaders have got away, and may extend still further, the difficult combination of very light winds and fast flowing westerly current in the Straits has halted their adversaries for many hours. Neutrogena’s co-skipper Herrmann reckoned today they were no more than half an hour from Mirabaud yesterday afternoon, but while Wavre and Paret passed the 5°37 at 0050hrs early this morning, the American-German finally escaped to the Atlantic at 1630 this afternoon, the fifth boat to break out of the Med.

Herrmann: “ It’s been the worst of our lives! We have this challenge in the Gibraltar Straits with incoming current and trying to sail against it with not enough wind, so we can make some metres sideways but it is impossible to get against the current. In fact in 24 hours we have not moved no metres west. We tried the north coast and are trying the south coast. It is a little better just now we can see Anna Corbella and Dee Caffari and they have the same problem. At least it is the same for others. Yesterday we missed getting away with Mirabaud by about half an hour. They took a slightly different route. Mirabaud overtook us in the Strait and took a slightly different route. After that it shut down. It’s frustrating, disappointing. It is tough. We still make the odd joke, but at the moment if there is no wind coming we could stay here forever and that’s frightening.”

From third placed Mirabaud, Dominique Wavre reported: “ In spite of our mishaps we are well placed. These two things are independent of each other. During the night we picked up some breeze and it helped us at just the right moment. That luck helped us escape the calm. The entry to Gibraltar was pretty easy, the exit was frightening. And that makes it all feel better now to be out on the open ocean. The Mediterranean complicated things. There were lots of operations and manoeuvres and that made us tired. We will try to recover now that we are in the Atlantic. We will get back into a more regular rhythm. We take turns to rest and by this evening we will surely be feeling recharged. For the moment there is a big sun and not much wind. The clouds are almost motionless. The weather is quite interesting. There is a succession of fronts which will come after one another. To the Canaries the strategy is rather complex. Our mishap of yesterday is left on the Moroccan coast. We don’t think about Moroccan officials any more. Since last night all that we have thought about is trimming the sails and changing sails when we needed to. The race was back on very quickly.”

It’s been especially tough for those who two days ago chose that Spanish coast option. As Kito de Pavant noted sagely today from Groupe Bel, 36 hours ago they were in touch with the leaders now they are ninth and have a deficit of 144 miles on Virbac-Paprec 3.

“In fact we can’t do anything just now but go backwards in the standings," said de Pavant. "It is not very pleasant. But there is not much else we can do. We can only suffer together and that is what we have done for the last two days with Seb. The conditions don’t evolve or change really. At the speed we are going it will take us 36 hours to get to Gibraltar...Last night I was more philosophical. It was a beautiful night with shooting stars and it was beautiful all around. It would not be too bad to be touring, cruising. But for racing it is not good. What is doubly frustrating is that the boat is very good, and goes well. In the beginning of the race we could compare ourselves against the others and we were going well. Speeds are similar between the boats which are at the front of the fleet. Gibraltar was the first level crossing and we have had to sit and wait."

Meanwhile British skipper Alex Thomson should be back in the UK later this Tuesday evening, after being declared fit enough to return home to follow a strict rehabilitation programme designed to have him ready to beat the 10 day medical assessment deadline. After that deadline Thomson and the Hugo Boss team must have a schedule agreed with Race Direction for the skipper to join the boat.

Standings at 1400hrs GMT

1 Jean Pierre Dick - Loick Peyron VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 23961.5 miles to finish
2 Michel Desjoyeaux - Francois Gabart FONCIA +56.5 miles
3 Dominique Wavre - Michele Paret MIRABAUD +77 miles
4 Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team +89.7 miles,
5 Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier NEUTROGENA +113.9 miles .
6 Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS +115.5 miles
7 Iker Martinez - Xabi Fernandez MAPFRE +142.miles
8 Jean le Cam - Bruno Garcia PRESIDENT +143.9 miles
9 Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane GROUPE BEL +144.2 miles
10 Jaume Mumbru - Cali Sanmarti WE ARE WATER +181 miles
11 Gerard Marin - Ludovic Aglaor FORUM MARITIM CATALA +183.5miles
12 Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris RENAULT Z.E +187.8miles
13 Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA + 188.8 miles
14 Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn HUGO BOSS +225.9 miles

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