Virbac Paprec 3 tick off next gate
It was a significant moment for Loïck Peyron and Jean-Pierre Dick when they passed through the Amsterdam gate and set a fast course yesterday for the Australian barrier, signifying the end of a bone-shaking ride in confused seas and the chance to open the gap again on the pack which are pursuing the long time Barcelona World Race leaders.
Indeed the weekend programme for the race leaders, could be a diet of ‘champagne sailing’ other than first edition winner Dick revealing today that three bottles of Coke comprise the celebratory tipple of choice aboard the Virbac-Paprec 3. But life is certainly sugar sweet for Dick and Peyron today as they see their speeds elevated back towards 16-18 knots averages, consistently re-gaining today some of what they lost to the 2004 Olympic 49er champions who are 515 miles behind this afternoon.
Jean-Pierre Dick: “We had very strong winds at an angle which was just not good and big waves and so to get to the gate we did not go so fast. Behind us I think they were averaging 19 knots and I think we were 16 knots. But we are downwind again and thing will open out again. We will have a little less wind over the next bit. The last two days were really full on, the boat was shaking with lots of carbon noises.
"Everything can crumble because we are on a mechanical boat and we saw what happened with Foncia. You can lose the rig in a second. But 500 miles of a lead is nice, but it is not enormous compared with how far there is to go. We try to read a little and listen to some music. Bur of course sometimes we don’t have time to because we just crash to sleep, tired out. Since the start we have not dropped the rhythm between sailing, eating and sleeping.
"Loïck is quite accustomed to our life on board and we had discussions before the race. We take the freeze dried but try to have the best, and we have treats like chocolate. We have energy powders to rehydrate us and we have three bottles of Coke for each great moment. And some semi sparkling water after a big effort which I really like."
If Dick and Peyron have champagne conditions, Mapfre in second have been trying to deal with a very potent but confusing cocktail, a party punch which is packing very variable breezes and mixed seas which sees Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez forced to maintain a high, but nor necessarily profitable work rate. But the Spanish duo should find it simplified when they too get through the final ice gate of the Indian Ocean this evening, though their wind pressure is set to ease as the frontal trough they have been shadow boxing dissipates. Their motivation remains high but will spike higher when they feel like they are on the same ‘leg’ of the course as the leaders.
Again Jean-Pierre Dick reminded today that anything can happen in this mechanical sport, that they are essentially little more than a fast day’s sailing ahead of the second boat, and he reaffirmed how a seemingly small problem can escalate to become a big one.
Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann dealt with their own problem efficiently but did, in the end have ‘outside assistance’ to recover their Code Zero headsail which had slid off the boat when it broached due to a ballast tube malfunction. The Neutrogena duo had to gather their wits quickly when the key sail slipped over the guard rails and into the sea when they momentarily lost control. But a text book return to the locus where the sail had disappeared was rewarded when the floating sail was pinpointed by a few albatross who were standing on the waterlogged sail, enjoying respite from their own Southern Ocean endeavors aboard their own Neutrogena ‘island’. That the pair were able to get the sail back on board was something of a ‘miracle’ Hermmann reported today.
Boris Herrmann reported: "The basic problem is pretty steep waves and how to make the boat go fast. It is easier to sail the boat in very steep waves with a lot of ballast in the stern. Our problem started yesterday when we lost the stern tube and the boat wiped out and in this whole episode we lost one sail over the side. We were sailing with the small kite and one reef in the main and so it takes quite a while to take sock the kite.
"Once we had done that we looked at each other and said do we really do this because we had at least one and a half miles to go back and it was big waves, and gusts and everything. We did not expect to find it, so we said ‘lets try’ and we turned and on the trace on the navigation programme we could find the point where we wiped out, we went to the position with a couple of tacks, going upwind with very small sails. From there we went downwind very slowly. And all of a sudden I could see a few albatross and they were sitting on our sails.
"I think we have something going on with the albatross. Today we had a problem, we were Chinese-ing the boat (Chinese gybing) heeling over from one side to the wrong side. When that happened once again an albatross was flying close, as if he was keeping an eye in us. Each time we make a stupid mistake it seems like there is one near the boat.
"First of all it was quite stressful but in fact finding the sail and then managing to get it back on deck in these big waves was a miracle, but even since then it has been steep waves. And so since then we have probably had to reef and unreef the main probably five times since then, sometimes down to two reefs, some time one and sometimes full main. Yesterday between two positions we were very close or ahead of Mirabaud and we did not want to lose too many miles, to gain back the lead over them and it was the perfect time to go fast this morning.
"Ryan worked on the tube today while I took care of the boat and cut a piece of it off to seal it again. We cannot use any ballast then and had to heel the boat over to keep the ballast tube empty. It was a challenge in many ways. But the thing has been glued in place for half an hour and now we are just waiting for it to dry, and the glue can set within a hour because we will pass the gate and then need to gybe south again.
"Yesterday we saw them all morning, we sailed alongside them and could see them pretty clearly, we were close and then gained on them, from quite a way behind, just gaining on them before we gybed.”
Having yesterday morning been sailing alongside and in sight of sixth placed Mirabaud, Neutrogena’s problems cost them miles. But the German-American pair passed the Crozet ice gate this morning at between 1130 and midday, some four hours after Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret on the Owen Clarke-designed Mirabaud. Neutrogena were just 26 miles behind Mirabaud this evening.
Looking at the long game is always an essential virtue racing around the world, one which Dee Caffari learned especially on her 2008-9 Vendée Globe solo race. Having been forced to route north and upwind, surviving a very stressful 36-48 hours in big, confused seas, the record breaking British skipper and Anna Corbella were back to their radiant best today, looking forward to easy miles directly down the track, knowing that they have a good chance to reducing some of the deficit they lost out to Mirabaud and Neutrogena.
Dee Caffari reported: "The sun is shining and we are going fast in the right direction, and we are very happy bunnies. It was horrible, we did not like it, the boat did not like it and it was a really horrible, intense 36 hours. And it is probably the worst conditions we have had in the race so far. It was only about trying to keep the boat and the crew in one piece, and we got out of there and the weather has just got better and better. She did not feel 100% and was not firing on all cylinders, but she is back in full.
"It is looking like this northerly component will stay with us and we can crack on straight to the ice gate and clear that by Monday. It is looking like easy miles for us which is quite a change because we have had to work quite hard recently.
"Neutrogena and Mirabaud are always our targets because we obviously lost a lot by having to take that northern upwind route, and it did cost us dearly while they were able to take that more direct route, so to close that gap would be lovely and we have not given up. I was really happy with the boat, I had a good look around yesterday when it became a bit drier, and we sponged out a good deal of water. Everything is good with the boat and she is doing a good job and looking after us.”