Rerun of 2007
The course is very long and, as he very well knows much can happen when racing around the world, but Jean-Pierre Dick sailed into the second week of his second Barcelona World Race in the same position as his first: leading the pack.
Were he blessed with a moment today to cast his mind back, Dick, might recall that in the 2007-8 race he lead into the second week by around 15 miles. One week in his nearest rival was Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou, sailing with Seb Josse. Today, as his closest challenger is also the current Vendée Globe champion, Michel Desjoyeaux, with François Gabart on Foncia. And as the second week rolled in this afternoon, Virbac-Paprec 3’s lead is around 12 miles.
And the passage time to the Canaries from Barcelona should be quite similar last time to this edition, although this time the skippers have free reign to pass the Canaries as they wish.
In the first race Paprec-Virbac 2, the Farr-designed predecessor to Dick’s new IMOCA Open 60, took 7 days 19 hours 01 minute for the elapsed time from Barcelona to what was the edition’s Canaries gate, set between Grand Canaria and Fuerteventura.
This afternoon at 1600hrs UTC, with 7 days 3 hours elapsed since the start Dick and Peyron were 45 miles north of that latitude, making just under 8 knots.
The leading duo were set to pass close to the west side of the Canaries’ most western island La Palma later this evening, although both the Virbac-Paprec duo and their pursuers on Foncia have had a testing day working downwind in light and fickle sailing conditions.
Dick commented: “Our summary of the first week is very positive. We are in front. What more could we ask for? If we would have liked a little more then it would not to have been stuck for a couple of hours last night approaching Madeira.
"On board the atmosphere is constructive and we look forward to carrying on like that. The next 36 hours will be difficult with light winds. After that we will be in the trade winds. We just work to what feels right just now for us both. Loick shouted at me because I sleep with my head torch on.”
From on board Foncia François Gabart said: "Since the start, the conditions have not been easy, many operation and manoeuvres, many questions and strategic questions, especially yesterday dealing with the front. I am pretty happy because I feel we have sailed pretty well, even if we are not leading. But we are doing everything to catch up with those in front."
The duel between third placed Mirabaud and Estrella Damm continues with the Barcelona duo Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes on Estrella Damm, fourth, are looking set to invest in a more westerly course, taking a delicate route between a light wind zone to their left, and the encroaching high pressure area spreading from west, but seeming to signal a desire to get well west of the Canaries.
Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret have made a gain of about 10 miles on their Spanish rivals over the course of the day, a solid third on the leaderboard, 70 miles behind the leaders. The couple, at this point in the last race were more than twice that distance behind Dick and Damian Foxall (IRL), and lay seventh.
Meantime the group immediately behind have been dealing with the problem of passing to the east and southeast of Madeira. Some have almost certainly strayed too close and were slowed in lighter winds through the lee of the high ground on the islands. Notably Dee Caffari (GBR) today rued their late decision on GAES Centros Auditivos to change from a westerly passage to the east, losing some miles on their near rivals.
"We are disappointed with our position today," said Dee. "Last night we were late making a tactical decision as we were originally aiming to head west of Madeira taking the same route as Virbac-Paprec 3 and Foncia. We realised too late that we would not make it far enough west and turned south to head leeward of the islands but that has put us too close and we are caught in the wind shadow of Madeira, slowing us right down.
"The previous 48 hours have been full on and we have not been looking after ourselves. The change in conditions overnight have meant that we have been able to sleep and eat so we feel a million times better and are ready for the fight ahead. We are hopeful that we can make good the miles lost and the lighter conditions will allow us to catch up on the guys ahead.”
After their charge down the east side of the group, making big gains yesterday the duo on Président, Jean Le Cam (FRA) and Bruno Garcia (ESP) were struggling this afternoon in light winds.
At home in England recovering from his emergency appendectomy 48 hours before the start of the race, landbound Alex Thomson had the bonus of being able to be at the birth of his and partner Kate Denham’s first child, a boy called Oscar.