Schtroumpfettes on the charge

Quotes from the Barcelona World Race skippers and Loick Peyron's impression on Virbac's record

Saturday January 22nd 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Consistently covering over 500 miles in 24-hours, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron are setting the pace in the Barcelona World Race.

The Virbac Paprec 3 duo’s total mileage peaked earlier today at 516.37 nautical miles, achieved between 0900 GMT yesterday morning and 0900 today. Sailing at an average of 21.51 knots this potentially sets a new 24-hour record for 60ft monohulls, depending on ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

The ‘Schtroumpfettes’, as Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA) has nicknamed the duo, are surely the fastest Smurfs in the west. Currently in second place, Virbac Paprec 3 continues to maintain 20+ knot average speeds since this morning’s position update, while race leader Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart on Foncia have dropped a knot slower. The blue Verdier-VPLP boat is also gaining on the front-runner, and now less than 20 miles behind.

Smurf Loick Peyron reported from on board: "Over the last 24 hours, the wind has not stopped changing so we kept with it, staying at a constant angle to the wind and with a great sail combination up. We have not changed our sails, we kept the same headsail and it's been very effective. Apparently we’ve been going relatively quickly for the past 24 hours. Jean-Pierre has done some very thorough calculations and worked out that we’ve covered 516 miles in 24 hours so it shows this beautiful boat’s potential! We're ready in our heads for the Roaring Forties but here we’ve been under pressure for the past 48 hours so we haven’t have time to prepare the boat. However, with the milder conditions, we will have more time to inspect everything. The most important thing is to stay in the race, not to break anything, and to stay in contact with the leader. Do not let go of Foncia! Virbac Paprec-3 is built for just that ... it really is phenomenal!"

Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 have been experiencing record-breaking conditions sailing ahead of a clearly developed front which has produced consistent northwesterly winds in the high 20s, with occasional gusts topping 30 knots. Together with moderate waves of around 2-3 metres from the same direction this is allowing for high average boat speeds for the front two boats as they sail high to the waypoint of Gough Island. Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 may be able to keep pace with the front throughout for another 12 hours or so, but as they approach Gough Island can expect to see substantial wind shifts to lighter southerly breezes. The first boat is anticipated at the Atlantic waypoint of Gough Island tomorrow afternoon.

By contrast, Mapfre in third place are under the influence of the same low pressure system, but at the northern edge of it have been sailing 2-3 knots slower for the past 24 hours and this afternoon have dropped to less than half the leaders’ pace. While Virbac Paprec 3 gains, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez are now 350 miles behind Foncia – a loss of around 70 miles since they gained the third podium place in the small hours of this morning.

Different weather conditions for the main fleet of boats to the northeast suggest they set to be halted by another wall of light winds as two high pressure systems merge across the Atlantic. Estrella Damm remains in fourth, separated from Groupe Bel in fifth by just five miles in the ‘distance to leader’ rankings and around 60 miles of ocean.

In this afternoon’s 1500 update Mirabaud in sixth are over 460 miles behind Foncia, showing the leading pair’s phenomenal pace as they double their advantage from yesterday. At the time the ranking statistics were taken Mirabaud had also slowed to sub-6 knots, in keeping with the patchy conditions Dominique Wavre explained they were experiencing: "!The highs are playing hide and seek with us and now it's us who’s losing! The wind is quite unstable, the sea is relatively calm with a small wave in front which balances the boat a bit, and we’re moving at 10-12 knots.From tonight it will be difficult and it’s only in 2-3 days that we'll get back into regular wind. Mapfre will find it slightly more difficult than those in front of them to get into the South because they'll have a little pause after the passage of the anticyclone. They have a good position but obviously not as good as Foncia and Virbac. We chose the 'least worst' option because if we had taken the path of the Brazilian coast we would have missed the train of the low pressure that has moved past, which would have been a real disaster! The goal for now is to get out of the anticyclone and attacking the Roaring Forties in the best possible position, fifth or sixth. For now, we just manage the situation day by day, it's difficult to make long-term strategies. The only sure thing is that the boat is going well and the crew is in great shape.”

Renault Z.E. and Neutrogena remain closely matched, with just 0.1 of a knot splitting the pair over the past 24 hours, with the Spanish team of Pachi Rivero and Antonio Piris on Renault holding the advantage in seventh.

From Neutrogena, Boris Herrmann reported: “We had a perfect night, maybe the first night in this race without any sail changes. Steady windspeed and direction and we moved okay at a 10th of a knot faster than our direct rivals Renault. Every position update we try to get in front of them. It’s not easy, they have this Farr-designed boat which works well in these conditions and we have to be really perfectly trimmed to keep up with their speed or to be a little bit faster. We’re not too worried about Foncia and Virbac Paprec going that fast and flying away. They are kind of in a different game at the moment. Our focus is this group. We’re in a good position here and I think everything is still possible, and we’re looking forward to meeting the first southerly winds from the Southern Ocean in a couple of days.”

Co-skipper Ryan Breymaier said: “We complement each other pretty well. We like to sleep at different times, and we work well on deck together and are happy to make all the decisions together. It’s definitely not easy with the light airs conditions we’ve had a lot, that’s the hardest thing in the race. Just keeping motivated to keep changing sails, keep moving in the right direction, and that kind of stuff. We’re already pretty motivated individually so we don’t have to motivate each other very much. It’s just a matter of whoever’s on deck, saying we need to do this or that, and the other person is right there ready to help every time.”

Behind them, GAES Centros Auditivos reported that they too had experienced the frustration of getting caught under windless clouds, but Dee Caffari acknowledged that for them worse was yet to come: “We seem to have avoided our nemesis. We have lots of black clouds which stopped our progress while everybody else was sailing, and that was really frustrating, but for the last 24 hours we’ve managed to keep moving with no cloud so we’re much happier today. I think we’re going to start a new club, the St Helena club, as we all float around going nowhere for a while. It’s going to be really tough. There’s two kind of stopping areas and we’ve just got to try and get past them, there’s no way round them, we’ve got to let it pass over us, and just try and get in that breeze as soon as possible. Once we’ve got this out the way then we’re in the south and we’re away then, just like we’re looking enviously at Foncia and Virbac down there already in that southerly flow and getting good mileage. But we’re not alone, everybody in our little group has to go through this difficult patch so there’s a chance we can catch up some miles in our gang ‘cos we’ve all got to do it, but it’s going to be really difficult. We’ve just got to keep the boat moving, that’s the hardest thing. When the wind is really light it comes from all different directions and we have to choose which direction is our favoured one. Obviously we want to go south, but if south isn’t an option then we have to decide if west is better or east is better, and we’ve just got to try and keep the boat moving. It’s just very frustrating, and we get hot, tired and irritable and it’s just a case of knowing that each of us is trying as hard as we can. We know it’s a difficult few days ahead so we’re prepared for it.

Hugo Boss has regained 10th place from Central Lechera Asturiana, but as the fleet becomes increasingly spread out once again their distance to the leader is currently over 660 miles, with 13th-placed Forum Martim Catala now 879 miles back, double the span of the fleet just two days ago.

From on board Hugo Boss, Wouter Verbraak reported: “It’s very variable conditions, so the only warning of a change in the wind is the squalls but they come within 10-15 minutes so it’s hard to be properly set up with the right sails up and so we just have to manage with what we have up at the moment. The more unstable the conditions the more we have to be on deck and doing sail changes and hand steering. But it’s the nature of the race and we’re managing to find a good balance between sleep and hand-steering so we’re doing good.

“I think the next 24 hours it’s going to be challenging again. This morning looks to be ok, but from this afternoon, like the rest of our group, we’re all going into light winds and things will get tricky. To keep the wind you have to stay north, but long term you have to be south, so it’s a real challenge to find a balance between those two.

“Before we get to the Southern Ocean flows, I would say we have five days of very light winds and fighting for every millimetre.

Virbac Paprec 3 obviously has very good conditions with flat water and a good angle. Our boat is more powerful than Virbac and I’m sure we could do the same, but nonetheless records are very hard to claim because you need a very good weather window, and obviously as a crew and boat you need to be 100 per cent. So well done to the guys in the south, and hopefully we’ll get another opportunity in this race to beat that record.

“The latest generation of Open 60s are really incredible machines so I’m sure we’ll see more high speed sailing in the weeks to come. For us as a team our boat is geared up for stronger winds. For us just 25 knots would do fine, we don’t need any storm force winds, nobody needs that. But I think the Southern Ocean could be good and we’re looking forward to that.

"!Andy is doing a fantastic job being pro-active and always looking for the last percentages of speed. We’ve had our ups and downs but for me the downs have really built and strengthened our team relationship, and I’ve no doubt that will be of benefit in the future.”



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