Indian Ocean sting in the tail
The Indian Ocean is not giving up the leaders of the Barcelona World Race to the Tasman and Pacific without one final scrap. The final 24 to 48 hours in the Indian Ocean look set to be the toughest for Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron in first place on Virbac-Paprec 3, for Mapfre and Estrella Damm.
Forecasts for this evening, tonight and into Saturday, suggest the leading trio might see very strong northwesterly winds and big seas kicked up by the final big low pressure of the Indian Ocean, a vicious sting in the tail after what has proven to be a generally compliant, benign passage. The leaders had less than 300 miles of Indian Ocean this afternoon.
For Dick and Peyron there might be the relative luxury of their 452 miles lead, allowing them the option to moderate their speeds in the difficult conditions, but the battle between second placed Mapfre and Estrella Damm remains as intense as ever, with the second and third placed Spanish duos still making very, very similar average speeds. With their hands full in the brisk conditions, the leading duo may scarcely have the opportunity to enjoy the moment, possibly late tomorrow or more probably Sunday when they pass the theoretical mid point of the 25,000 miles course.
The leading trio are well into evolving their strategy for the Tasman passage to New Zealand and the Cook Straits which separate the North and South Islands. This diversion out of the Southern Ocean and through the straits adds a further 500 miles to the direct orthodromic course, but it effectively brings with it a whole new set of challenges – the rhythm changing from ocean racing, to passage racing, to coastal racing and back down through the gears again. And of course it is a relatively sudden and tantalising flirtation with ‘real life’. Still, the weather models do not agree on the exact timings of a high pressure system over the Tasman which will progress east across New Zealand, but it will be a very significant blocker to the fortunes of one or some of the top half of the fleet.
The days may not exactly be dragging yet for the duos, but for sure several of the skippers have been commenting recently on some of the friends, family and occasions they are missing.
Ebullient, upbeat and positively brimming today, Renault ZE Sailing Team's Pachi Rivero answered questions from a local Barcelona school with great enthusiasm, on weird and wonderful fish he had seen, what makes a great sailor, what his most difficult memories were, but he also commented that what he misses most, after six weeks at sea, is his own family.
“When we put the reef in the sail doesn’t work or fill until we finish the operation, the boom was hanging on the lazy jacks and with the tension it broke the lazy-bags," he reported. "The A5 is up and the problem with the downhaul is fixed. The sea is not so big, but we are surfing at 18-21 knots, and it is very nice. We are looking at the Tasmanian sea, hanging in there at the back of this pack, they are a bit head of us, but if we can take advantage of the low then maybe we can get south and cross the barrier.”
Jean-Pierre Dick spoke yesterday about missing out on three months of the life of his young baby who was only four months old when he left Barcelona: "What is something different again is having my first child. He is very small, and it was very emotional at the start because I won’t see him growing. When I left he was four months old and when we get back he will be seven months. I fear he will have grown a lot and there will be a lot of things I don’t know about him, but I try to imagine things a bit.
"We are happy with the boat, we try to go fast but to not too much, remembering we are not even half way. And especially seeing that Kito tore some sails, so it is better to not do the same. There are inevitably small things to repair on these boats, but it is vital not to damage the keel, the mast and the bow!"
GAES Centros Auditivos's Dee Caffari today remained objective about Hugo Boss finally getting the better of them, stealing eighth place on the leaderboard. She said: “We are not that worried at the moment. I mean lets face it, if they are not that worried in these conditions when are they going to catch us. And we have a high pressure ahead and we have seen the results of a high pressure with these two boats before. They have been about one know faster than us most of the time recently, but I am pretty happy that there will be opportunities a little further down the line. They are not going to get too far ahead of us.
"We have been very lucky for the last week, really easy straight line sailing and then we have that to the Australia barrier, and then that bit from the Australian barrier up to New Zealand is a little far in the distance, but the models do not agree.
Easy sailing means sailing in a straight line, with not a lot of manoeuvres to do, it is always intense, like a torture system. The noise is unbelievable, we are shipping tonnes of water across the deck and it is just even hard to do the most basic of things on board. The fact you are doing fast miles in the right direction keeps you happy.”
From Neutrogena, Boris Herrmann reported: "At the last gate we lost out 100 miles when we were stuck in no breeze, completely stuck down to one knot, two knots of boat speed and so the big gap to Mirabaud, and at the moment we are just trying to get it back slowly, heading straight to the next gate. It is straight on but we try to sail as fast as possible. We change back and forth between headsails because the sea state is not very smooth and it is not conditions that you find speed very easily.
“I certainly feel some tension in my back and my neck and had it the other day, a couple of days ago it was bad, but when we get some sun on our bones it will be fine and we will be back to top form and condition. I am fine otherwise.
“The last race was more windy but steady winds, the same as Dominique Wavre keeps pointing out, normally we get closer to the depressions and get stronger but steady breeze but normally it is more pleasant in terms to the conditions. We had a 50°S limit on the 40 footers race [Portimao Global Ocean Race], and we had pretty good weather, two or three big depression to come through here quite quickly. It is not up to us to choose where the ice drifts, so we absolutely need these ice gates to have a reasonably secure race.”