Fight for third
While the Barcelona World Race leader Virbac-Paprec 3 this afternoon looked very much like she should make it to the Crozet ice gate sneaking ahead of the depression which has been threatening them for the last few days, the challenge for third by Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane on Groupe Bel to Spain’s Estrella Damm appears to be increasing by the hour.
The duel in the Indian Ocean between the ‘Red Cow Boys’ – De Pavant and Audigane - on the VPLP-Verdier designed Groupe Bel which is also known as ‘Cochise’ (ed note as in Cow Cheese!), and Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes, who signs his communications as ‘Jack Sparrow’ on the Red Pearl, known as the Farr designed Estrella Damm. From being nearly 80 miles ahead of their French rivals, the RCN Barcelona-flagged IMOCA Open 60 and Groupe Bel are now alongside each other on the same longitude and separated north-south by just 12 miles.
Ribes, on good form and visibly enjoying every hour of his race along with his partner Pella, quipped that they would be getting the binoculars out to scan the horizon for the Red Cow Boys on the Laughing Cow.
“Over the last six hours Groupe Bel were in little bit more pressure all the time," Ribes reported. "When we went to the gate the front ran over us. We thought there will be more wind in the south so we sailed upwind to look for the southwesterly wind but the front was so wide that we never reached the wind direction we were looking for so we had to bear away. All the time we were going upwind, they were reaching so he was able to catch up a lot of miles because we didn’t find the wind that we were hoping to find.
“Now it’s upwind today, not fully upwind but tight reaching 65 degrees and we are both trying to follow the shift that is coming to the south and we are very close. But we don’t see them. We have been looking for them but cannot see them although they are not very far. Last boat we saw was Mirabaud in the Canary Islands and when they were twenty miles away we could see them. But today we can’t see Groupe Bel. I would like to see them to have a reference.
“We have to set the pace quite high on Estrella Damm so when we have a boat near then it is the same pace as when we are alone. When you have anyone around you are losing or winning every four hours directly. When you have someone a hundred miles away and you get the sched if they gain 10 miles you can’t do anything, but now when you have the boats 20 miles away it’s sailing with your wind conditions too, so it’s more demanding because you lose if you are obviously doing something wrong, but we try to set the pace quite high here at the moment.
"We’ve been setting the pace quite high the whole month I don’t know how long we can keep it like that.”
Estrella Damm was holding off the advances of the French duo, who have consistently had slightly more breeze due to their more favorable position to the north over past days. But Ribes seemed fairly confident that he and Pella would be better placed when the next windshift, from the southwest reaches them.
For Ribes, today’s small pleasure – the reward after a difficult 24 hours which saw them making a big repair to their Code Zero – was a welcome curry.
With the dominant high pressure systems likely to remain in place, one under South Africa, which is giving the last third of the fleet upwind conditions, and one to the WSW of the Kerguelen Islands, there is every chance that more of these nasty low pressure systems will spin off the Madagascar breeding ground, probably later in the week, towards the weekend. As long as the blades of the two wind generation mills are turning, drawing up the cold polar air in the west and pulling down the warm, moist tropical air, these violent depressions are generated.
Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos, who passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope this morning at 0930 GMT, have been feasting on Caffari’s favourite Haribo sweets. On her fourth passage past the South African Cape, twice from east-to-west and now twice from west-to-east, Caffari said: “We can’t stay miserable and have to remain positive as we have these conditions for a while. Reaching another milestone is always good and it is fantastic for Anna to have passed the Cape of Good Hope today, something she has never done before on a race.”
GAES Centros Auditvos was joined on today's video conference by Mike Golding in Barcelona, who wished the girls every success and advocated patience and prudence, keeping the boat together, as virtues as they slog upwind. “The opportunities will come, there is such a long way to go, the main thing just now is to keep the boat together,” said Golding, who in the 2004-5 Vendee Globe made up more than 600 miles of deficit on the leaders. “Remember there are big, big opportunities in the Southern Ocean.”
Dee reported: “The conditions are really odd. We are going upwind and sailing north. The water is at 20deg, The boat does suffer a bit upwind, we did not expect to be upwind for so long. But we took advantage of the warmer water to wash our hair.”