Mapfre press on
Significantly the Spanish 49er Olympic medallists electing to pass through the Cook Straits without stopping, thereby adding pressure on the pack pursuing them, but most of all on the race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3, who are now heading out into the Pacific.
Mapfre's Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez came to the tough decision not to halt despite acknowledging that they considered it made logical sense to do so, given that they would be quicker to the finish if they did, returning to the race course with their boat 100%, but the duo make the point that they want to race non-stop around the world and that remains their intention.
As Martinez said: "We did not set out to sail round the world and stop. We feel that an opportunity to sail non-stop around the world might not come again, I don’t know if we will have another, so we have to take advantage of this opportunity, now. It is like the Olympics. You don’t know if you will be back again, so take every opportunity when it comes and give it everything. We are just about okay. We did not count on it taking so many extra days to here. We might be on diet at the end, but meantime: full speed, keep going!”
The Mapfre duo were enjoying the deep satisfaction of not only having dealt with a running repair to replace the lost hook for their Solent, allowing them to carry on without stopping, but also from the simple enjoyment of passing close to New Zealand without needing to stop.
Tired but quietly content to know they are now just 161 miles behind race leader Virbac-Paprec 3, instead of the 525 before Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron’s technical stop in Wellington, the fact that their dream to complete a non-stop circumnavigation remains intact may be one source of happiness, but perhaps even more so is the knowledge that they are now stripping miles out of third placed Estrella Damm and Groupe Bel who are both sl\owed to walking speed, around 4 to 5 knots this afternoon, struggling in light, fickle breezes to make the turn at Cape Farewell on the northeast corner of New Zealand's South Island. Fernandez remarked today that through this and not stopping Wellington they expect to gain several hundred miles on their pursuers.
In the five hours to 1400 GMT, even though they were racing upwind against two knots of unfavourable current, Mapfrestill made another 18 miles on Estrella Damm who were covering the ground at only 4 knots, snared by the high pressure barring their entry to Cook Strait.
Pepe Ribes, Estrella Damm’s co-skipper was certainly confounded by the fact that the weather forecasts gave little hope for respite, but the veteran of three Volvo Ocean Races was almost certainly not enamoured by the decision of their long term rivals not to stop in Wellington. Although tired, Ribes confirmed again that he and co-skipper Alex Pella do not plan to stop in Wellington.
“The fact that Mapfre doesn´t stop does not affect us at all. You stop if you have a big problem that you can´t repair onboard. has a big problem and everyone that hasn´t will not stop. We are mostly worried about the main sail, the day before yesterday we dropped it and saw the repair was perfect. If the main sail doesn´t oblige us to stop then we won´t stop. The meteorology is quite complicated and what 48 hours ago looked quite straightforward is now a mess. We have a high pressure with different centres moving around, none of the forecasts – New Zealand, Australian and our GRIBs are nor corresponding with one another. Everything that we thought in advance we have had to re-think and at the moment we are just racing like this is a coastal race. Now the mainsail is not a worry, we will look at it again when we get a calm, but probably we will not worry again until after Cape Horn.”
Pachi Rivero, co-skipper of fifth placed Renault ZE Sailing Team, confirmed that he and Toño Piris have successfully made a running repair to their mainsail mast track yesterday which, Rivero said drew on their ‘Parlier spirit’ of ingenuity, but which he feels is sufficiently robust to keep them in the race without stopping.
“There are big seas and crashing waves and it is quite rare. We have been close hauling at good speeds, then an hour with no wind and then gybing and sailing down-wind. Now we have northerly winds which are a bit open. We were thinking of stopping because we had a problem with the main sail track but yesterday we got into the Parlier spirit and we did some repairs and it looks like it is ok. We are looking at it constantly and its fine. If everything goes alright then we will not stop. We tried to rest since the repairs. Now we have very changeable conditions. There are lots of quiet moments and then the next second you are very active, but it is alright. We have to rest before Cook Strait. We are okay when it comes to fuel and food. We think we will be in the Cook Strait Sunday night or Monday morning.
The weather is good if we get there on Sunday or Monday because later on it gets more complicated.
We are not surprised that guys have not stopped, if you don’t have to stop for a big repair then nobody´s going to stop. If anybody does stop it will be because they have big problems.”
Ryan Breymaier, co-skipper of sixth-placed Neutrogena, was decidedly upbeat today, not only at keeping Mirabaud tucked behind them in seventh, now 75 miles behind them, but looking at a relatively straightforward routing towards New Zealand and Cook Strait.
“We finally managed to get ahead in our little battle for the moment and that feels awesome. We spent the day sailing upwind and reaching and then tacked in this light air and are back into breeze now, more or less reaching towards Cook Strait. It feels like we are on the home stretch and on the way to New Zealand which feels great. It is nice for us and it should build to 20-25 knots and so we will go down the sailplan Solent and probably a reef by the time it is maximum pressure, and then easing as we get closer to Cook Strait.
"We were pushing super, super hard to get past them the other day, keeping up too much sail area when we shouldn’t have, reaching with Solent and two reefs we did almost 28 knots on one surf, just trying as hard as we could to go as fast as possible, those are the conditions that suit us: lots of breeze when the other boats are having to slow down to keep from burying the bow, we are just pushing harder. We knew that was conditions which were good for us and used that to our advantage, and now they are just climbing back slowly and surely, so we just need to make sure that when we get good conditions like that we can stay make it work for us.
"I would say that the boats are very very different between them (Mirabaud), downwind in breeze and big waves we have an advantage over other boats because the bow comes up on our boat, the bow comes up, we don’t push water, we don’t submarine. But most of the time in outer conditions other boats will be faster, especially in flat water the other guys definitely have an advantage, so I would say a lot of it is the boat but Boris and I have sailed a lot in breeze, but in certain conditions we are fast.”
In ninth place Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella are into what promises to be a breezy, bumpy passage across the Tasman Sea, trying to stay ahead of the wind and large seaway being generated by an active depession. As it stands now, the female duo look to have little margin for error or downtime, but will be doubly relieved to be in shape to pass Wellington, with their Owen Clarke-designed GAES Centros Auditivos was launched out of Hakes Marine in 2007. The girls had a difficult electrical problem which took them six hours to get to the bottom of, but were making good speed in pursuit of Hugo Boss, which has had some slow spells last night and today.